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Mickelson coasts in

He gets his 30th PGA Tour tournament win and surpasses $40 million in career earnings with a five-shot victory over Sutherland.

February 12, 2007|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

PEBBLE BEACH — Which was the safer bet -- that the sun would eventually come out or that Phil Mickelson would eventually win out?

On Sunday at Pebble Beach, nothing was as certain as a victory by Mickelson, the 30th of his swashbuckling career, a five-shot demolition of everyone, and about as methodical as punching a calculator.

Actually, that's not such a bad place to start, because Mickelson's triumph at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am vaulted him over the $40-million mark in PGA Tour earnings, a level reached by only two others, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.

And about those numbers: $40 million ... 30 wins.

"They're nice," Mickelson said.

Woods, with 55 victories, is the only active player who has won more often than Mickelson. If you're looking down the road for the next time Mickelson and Woods would play in the same stroke-play event, try next month at Bay Hill in Florida. Now that's nice.

Even so, it seems like a long way off, after Mickelson's sun-splashed romp, from last week's missed cut at Phoenix to a runaway victory nine days later. In a tournament that came close to being known more for its quirky weather than its golf, he changed all that with a closing round of six-under-par 66, and made it look remarkably easy.

His 20-under total of 268 equaled the tournament scoring record, set by Mark O'Meara in 1997, and his five-shot margin of victory also matched the largest in tournament history.

Mickelson started quickly and closed just as fast. He birdied two of the first four holes and three of the last four, taking the lead by burying a seven-foot birdie putt at the eighth, after which he was never challenged.

Operating in dazzling sunshine, he easily outdistanced journeyman Kevin Sutherland and rookie John Mallinger. Mickelson won for the first time since last April at the Masters. He banked $990,000, said goodbye not only to a disappointing start, but also to any nagging doubts about his pratfall at last year's U.S. Open at Winged Foot in New York.

Sutherland birdied the last hole for second place and won $594,000. He said there were never any questions about Mickelson, especially how it might connect with Winged Foot. It doesn't, he said.

"Phil's game hasn't gone anywhere," Sutherland said. "I think that anything that happened at the Open is a non-factor.

"He's a great player and great players, they click and off they go. The way he played today, except for one hole, he played flawless golf."

Mickelson birdied four of six holes at exactly the right time, right after a double-bogey at the par-three fifth when he hit it over the green and lost the ball.

He missed just one fairway and three greens, and he needed only 27 putts Sunday.

The key to Mickelson's day was the four-hole stretch from the eighth through the 11th. His five-iron from 215 yards stopped seven feet from the pin at the eighth and Mickelson made the birdie putt, while Sutherland missed his. At the 10th, Mickelson hit a nine-iron to 15 feet below the hole and made that putt for another birdie, worth a three-shot lead.

And at the 11th, from 80 yards out, Mickelson knocked a sand wedge to within 10 feet, rolled in the birdie putt, and for all purposes, was out of sight.

It was far from a total loss for Mallinger, who grew up in Escondido and lives in Long Beach. He made $374,000 for third place and because he finished in the top 10 -- his first time as a pro -- he made it into this week's Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club. Matt Kuchar and Ryan Armour also earned places in the Riviera field with their top 10s.

Mickelson said he's looking forward to testing his newfound driving prowess at tree-lined Riviera, which isn't exactly a duplicate for Augusta National, but it might help him when he plays the U.S. Open at Oakmont in Pennsylvania in June. By that time, Mickelson figures he will have his driving game down pat, not that there was anything wrong with it at Pebble Beach.

Any discussion about Mickelson's driving necessarily hooks back to his disappointment on the 72nd hole of last year's U.S. Open, where he had the lead, but hit his drive off a hospitality tent, his second shot off a tree, his third shot into a bunker and wound up with a double bogey. Geoff Ogilvy won the major that might have been Mickelson's.

Mickelson said he never really studied his U.S. Open failure until after the year ended. When he thought about it, he realized he had driven the ball poorly all four days at Winged Foot, so that's when he knew he had to repair his driving. He said it's working.

"I have never driven it this well as I'm driving right now," he said. "It's very easy for me to hit fairways, it feels that way.

"I'm excited. I've never had this type of feeling on the tee box, knowing that it's going to be in the fairway and not worry about it, not seeing if it's going to go left or right or worried about that. I just feel so confident right now."



Money makers

*--* 1 Tiger Woods $66,648,324 2 Vijay Singh $50,845,086 3 Phil Mickelson $40,532,081 4 Davis Love III $35,143,159 5 Jim Furyk $31,669,066 6 Ernie Els $28,420,395 7 David Toms $26,249,258 8 Justin Leonard $21,086,669 9 Nick Price $20,551,208 10 Kenny Perry $20,389,747 11 Mark Calcavecchia $19,653,021 12 Fred Funk $19,516,189 13 Fred Couples $19,129,114 14 Stuart Appleby $19,026,470 15 Mike Weir $18,899,141



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