Pebble Beach shows Tiger has a long way to go

By Doug Ferguson

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 13 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Phil Mickelson hits from the 18th tee at Pebble Beach Golf Links during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament in Pebble Beach, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012. Mickelson finished with an 8-under 64 to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and become only the ninth player with 40 career PGA Tour wins.

Eric Risberg, Associated Press

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Tiger Woods keeps saying his game is close.

Standing on the 18th green at Pebble Beach, he never looked so far away.

With the red sleeves from his shirt sticking out from a black vest, Woods could only watch Sunday as Phil Mickelson made one more birdie putt for an 8-under 64, the final touch of a six-shot comeback to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The white scoreboard behind the 18th green was telling.

The first stunner was seeing Mickelson go from a six-shot deficit to a two-shot lead in just six holes. Then he poured it on with a magnificent shot into 2 feet for birdie on the 13th and an aggressive play on the 14th for another one.

Equally shocking was Woods.

He three-putted for par and a 75, a whopping 11 shots worse than Mickelson. Only four other players had a higher score than Woods in the final round, none of whom started the day within range of the leader.

Woods was two shots out of the lead when he walked off the sixth green and then bogeyed the next three holes.

The two biggest names in golf played together in the second-to-last group, both feeling as though they were close to breaking through, both needed a dramatic charge at Pebble Beach.

That player turned out to be Mickelson.

In a big way.

"To put it together this week, and especially the final round, just feels terrific," Mickelson said. "And it gives me a lot of confidence, but also inspires me. Because I believe now that what I'm doing is correct, and that I'm able to play some of my best golf."

Woods attributed this mess to only one club in his bag — the putter.

The putting carried him to a 67 at Pebble Beach in the third round, giving him a chance to win for the first time since Sept. 13, 2009 on the PGA Tour. It let him down Sunday, when he missed five putts from under 5 feet.

"I could not get comfortable where I could see my lines," Woods said. "I couldn't get the putter to swing. I just could not get comfortable. It was frustrating, because I was looking to somehow getting off to 2- or 3-under par through six. Phil got off to that start. I had a chance to pick it up through the middle part of the round. Instead, it went the other way."

Lost in all this was Charlie Wi, who started the final round with a three-shot lead. Wi four-putted for double bogey on the opening hole, dropped another shot on the fifth, then three-putted from 15 feet for bogey on the sixth. Only a late rally gave him a 72 to finish two shots behind Mickelson for his fifth career runner-up finish.

The win gave Mickelson his 40th career victory — his goal is to get to 50, and this will help. He also became the third straight winner on the PGA Tour to start the final round at least six shots behind.

And to do it with Woods as a mere bystander?

"I just feel very inspired when I play with him," said Mickelson, who has posted the better score the past five times he has played alongside Woods in the final round.

"I love playing with him, and he brings out some of my best golf. I hope that he continues to play better and better, and I hope that he and I have a chance to play together more in the final rounds."

Mickelson took more satisfaction over having his wife, still recovering from breast cancer, come up for the weekend and even give him a pep talk when Mickelson was going nowhere in the second round.

"I was moping. It was terrible," Mickelson said. "And she said, 'Come on, now, cheer up. Let's go make some birdies.' And she was so positive, and it just changed my attitude."

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