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Phoenix rises for Mickelson

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Phil Mickelson completed a wire-to-wire victory in the Phoenix Open, again flirting with history in a dominating run at TPC Scottsdale.

Mickelson shot a 4-under-par 67 Sunday to finish at 28-under 256, two strokes off the PGA Tour record of 254 set by Tommy Armour III in the 2003 Texas Open.

“It’s an important one for me, because it’s been a while since I won, been a while since I’ve been in contention,” Mickelson said. “I was certainly nervous heading into today. I think the thing I’m most excited about was the way I was able to regain control of my thoughts after a few shots early on that I didn’t care for.”

Mickelson missed a chance for a 59 in the first round when his 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole caught the right edge of the cup, curled 180 degrees and stayed out. He settled for a 60 and followed with rounds of 65 and 64 to take a six-stroke lead into the final round.

Mickelson won after struggling the past two weeks in his season-opening events – tying for 37th at La Quinta and 51st at Torrey Pines – and creating some headlines by talking about tax increases. He now heads to Pebble Beach for his title defense.

“I think that sets up the tone for the rest of the year, because I really started to play well,” Mickelson said. “But for me, the rest of the year took a turn on Tuesday when I got my new driver. It just changed my whole deal.”

Brandt Snedeker finished second, four strokes back after a 65.

“Sometimes you have to tip your hat and say, ‘Phil played unbelievable and deserved to win,’ ” Snedeker said. “That’s kind of what this week was all about.”

Mickelson took a three-stroke lead to the 17th tee, and nearly drove into the left-side water on the drivable par 4, his ball stopping a yard short of the hazard. He hit his 25-yard second shot 15 feet past the hole and made the birdie putt.

Mickelson parred the par-4 18th after another drive to the left, one that easily cleared the water he hit into Friday en route to a double bogey, and Snedeker closed with a bogey.

Mickelson had his third wire-to-wire victory and first since the 2006 BellSouth Classic – a 13-stroke blowout the week before the second of his three Masters victories. He pushed his victory total to 41, winning for the first time since Pebble Beach 51 weeks ago.

Making his 24th appearance in the event that he also won in 1996 and 2005, Mickelson tied the tournament scoring record set by Mark Calcavecchia in 2001, and joined Calcavecchia, Arnold Palmer and Gene Littler as the only three-time winners. With six victories in Arizona, Mickelson also matched Johnny Miller’s tour record.

After three nearly cloudless days in the Valley of the Sun, the final round was played in overcast conditions. Light rain even fell for a few minutes as Mickelson finished warming up on the practice green and played the first hole.

After the rain stopped, Mickelson bogeyed the par-4 second and birdied the two front-nine par 3s, pulling off his best shot of the day on No. 7.

After Snedeker, four strokes back after a birdie on No. 6, hit within 10 feet of the back-left pin to set up a birdie, Mickelson’s tee shot leaked right and stopped an inch from the back fringe, leaving him 55 feet with a 20-foot swath of fringe between his ball and the hole.

Mickelson decided to putt through the fringe rather than chip over it and had caddie Jim Mackay remove the flagstick. The 42-year-old former Arizona State star hit it perfectly, with the ball avoiding the rough, rolling back onto the green and racing into the cup.

“The challenge of that was to judge the speed where half the putt is through fringe and half is on the green,” Mickelson said. “I got lucky to have made it, obviously. I was just trying to two-putt it. It was going fairly quickly when it got to the hole, probably would have been 6, 8 feet by. With Brandt in there close, that was a big momentum change.”

Snedeker could only shake his head and smile when the putt fell in.

“Are you kidding me?” Snedeker said. “I fully expected Phil to hit a flop shot from there. He didn’t have much of a putt, and he putted through it.

“I hit a great shot in there close and I thought, ‘Hey, I can get one on him here and put some pressure on him.’ He makes that, and he let me hear about it before I putt, and he let me know that I needed to make that to tie. We had fun with it. That’s Phil being Phil.”

Mickelson pushed the advantage back to four strokes with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 13th, his fourth straight birdie on the hole. Snedeker saved par after his drive stopped under jumping cholla, forcing him to take a drop for an unplayable lie.

Mickelson matched Snedeker on the next two holes, saving par on the par-4 14th with a 10-foot putt and two-putting for birdie on the par-5 15th.

Snedeker pulled within three again on the par-3 16th, hitting to 5 feet on the stadium hole.

Snedeker was coming off a second-place tie Monday at Torrey Pines, four strokes behind Tiger Woods in the fog-delayed event.

“I’m running into Hall of Famers every week,” Snedeker said.

Scott Piercy shot a 61 to finish third at 23 under.

“These greens were amazing,” Piercy said. “If you got it online, rolling, you made it.”

DIVOTS: The crowd Sunday was estimated at 58,791 for a weekly total of 525,821, short of the record of 538,356 set in 2008 – a year when the Super Bowl was in Arizona and the tournament finished on a Saturday. ... Mickelson was a course-record 9 under on the four par-3 holes and hit 63 of the 72 greens in a regulation. He has a 10-year winning streak, the longest active run on the tour, and has victories in 20 seasons, third behind Sam Snead (24) and Jack Nicklaus (21). Mickelson is ninth on the career victory list, four behind No. 8 Walter Hagen. Lefty also led wire-to-wire in 2005 at Pebble Beach.

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