Tiger move on to the next match with Aaron Baddeley

MARANA, Ariz. – Tiger Woods barely broke a sweat. Steve Stricker went into overtime for the second straight day. They had only one thing in common Thursday in the Accenture Match Play Championship, which ultimately was all that mattered.

Both are still playing.

One day after a stunning comeback to survive the opening round, Woods built a quick lead against Arron Oberholser and never gave him much hope in a 3-and-2 victory. Oberholser advanced to the second round with a victory over Bright’s Grove, Ont., nativeMike Weir on Wednesday.

The thrills belonged to Steve Stricker, who made a Steve Stricker on the 19th hole to extend the match, then beat Presidents Cup teammate Hunter Mahan with a birdie putt just inside 50 feet. It was the second straight day Stricker won in 20 holes.

And it was the second consecutive year that Phil Mickelson was given a long weekend off.


 

Fresh of a victory at Riviera, he couldn’t make enough birdies to keep up with Stuart Appleby, who couldn’t miss. Appleby’s ninth birdie came on the 17th hole, and it was enough to send Lefty packing with a 2-and-1 loss.

“It was a good match, but unfortunately, I just didn’t shoot low enough,” said Mickelson, who has never made it past the quarter-final in this tournament. “I wanted a chance on 18, but unfortunately, I didn’t get it.”

David Toms didn’t have any chance at all.

His back flared up late in his first-round victory over Masters champion Zach Johnson, and the pain was such that he had to withdraw before facing Aaron Baddeley, giving the Australian a day off.

Next up for Baddeley is a third-round date with Woods.

Look Behind you Tiger, Phil is sneaking up on you

In the wake of his win at Riviera on Sunday, Phil Mickelson trimmed Tiger Woods’ lead at the top of the world rankings to single digits.

Woods led Mickelson by 11.06 average points a week ago — Mickelson had only 9.01 points total — but that advantage was trimmed to 9.53 points this week: 19.71 for Woods to 10.18 for the second-ranked Mickelson.

Steve Stricker, Ernie Els and Adam Scott rounded out the top five in the same positions they held a week ago, while Justin Rose moved up one spot to sixth, bumping Jim Furyk to seventh.

That pattern repeated itself a few more times: K.J. Choi bumped Rory Sabbatini from the eighth spot, Padraig Harrington knocked Vijay Singh out of the 10th spot and Henrik Stenson replaced Sergio Garcia at 12th.

Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy remained 14th and 15th, while Luke Donald was up three spots to 16th. That knocked Zach Johnson, Aaron Baddeley and Lee Westwood down one spot apiece, while Trevor Immelman rounded out the top 20.

Mickelson shows patience and wins

LOS ANGELES – It has been 20 years since Phil Mickelson first stepped inside the ropes at Riviera, a 17-year-old amateur in awe of the fabled course off Sunset Boulevard, inspired by names like Hogan, Snead and Nelson that were on the trophy.

Lefty finally joined them on Sunday, adding to his impressive collection of PGA Tour titles on the Left Coast.

Mickelson made two clutch putts on the back nine, seized control when Jeff Quinney self-destructed with the putter, and took a relaxing walk up the 18th fairway with a victory he felt was a long time coming.

He closed with a 1-under 70 for a two-shot victory, the 33rd of his career, with 16 of those in California and Arizona.

“The fact I haven’t won this and it has taken me so long to win makes it that much more special,” Mickelson said.


 

A year ago, Lefty was poised to win in LA until he bogeyed the 18th hole and lost in a playoff against Charles Howell III. This time, he was steady down the stretch as Quinney’s putter changed from a magic wand to a ball-and-chain.

He made four straight putts outside 10 feet, only to make three straight bogeys starting on the 13th hole. The first two came from missing consecutive par putts from seven feet that allowed Mickelson a cushion over the closing holes.

“I just put a little too much pressure on the putter on the back nine,” said Quinney, who made a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that only changed the final score. He closed with a 71.

British Open champion Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald each shot 68 and tied for third, although this was a two-man race from the start, and a one-man celebration over the final two holes.

Mickelson finished at 12-under 272 and earned US$1,116,000.

He might never catch Tiger Woods in the world ranking, PGA Tour victories or in the majors, but for now he has done something the world’s No. 1 player hasn’t – win at Riviera.

Jack Nicklaus never won here, either.

Riviera was Woods’ first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old. He has not played the last two years.

Mickelson made his PGA Tour debut at Torrey Pines at age 17, then showed up a week later at Riviera. As much as the course impressed him, it also confounded him over the years, and he played there sparingly until returning with a renewed commitment last year.

“I didn’t understand the nuances of this golf course, where you can and can’t hit it,” he said. “And learning those nuances and how to hit the shots into some of these greens has helped me over the years. Last year was when I started to put it together, and I’m fortunate to break through this year.”

His work on the West Coast is not over, even though he has won in every city of regular PGA Tour stops, from ocean courses of Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach, soggy La Costa Resort, desert courses in Phoenix, Palm Springs and Tucson, and now Riviera.

Next up is the Accenture Match Play Championship, which he has never won.

The victory came one week after taking an 11 on the 14th hole at Pebble Beach to miss the cut, and two weeks after he lost a playoff toJ.B. Holmes in the FBR Open.

Mickelson said the key to winning Riviera was a change in his putter.

He changed golf balls to a slightly softer cover, and only last week realized that he didn’t recognize the same sound of the ball striking his putter, which caused him to hit harder. He changed the insert in his putter to return the same sound and feel, and it paid off.

Two of his biggest putts came on the back nine.

Quinney had holed a 15-foot putt on No. 8 to close within one shot, then took the lead at the turn with a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 9 and a bogey for Mickelson, whose seven-iron from the top of a bunker sailed well to the right and landed in the 10th fairway.

Mickelson hit driver beyond the 310-yard 10th hole, hit a flop shot to six feet and made the tricky putt to pull even. With a one-shot lead on the par-3 14th, he blasted out of a bunker some seven feet short, while Quinney had a little less than that for par.

Mickelson’s putt was true, Quinney missed on the low side and the margin was two.

“Being able to go first and get that in, I think that made his putt a little more difficult,” Mickelson said.

Quinney held on as long as he could, making a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th after Lefty had chipped to a foot for birdie. Moments after CBS Sports posted a graphic showing Quinney had gone 214 holes without a three-putt, the streak ended with a bogey at the worst time. That was the start of his undoing.

Mickelson attributed his West Coast success to being eager to play after his long winter break, and competing at tournaments that he grew up watching as a kid. The victory Sunday brought back memories of his first trip to this tournament.

“Then I was trying to make the cut,” Mickelson said. “This week I was trying to win. I like it better now.”

Phil Mickelson leads at the Northern Trust

LOS ANGELES – Phil Mickelson learned as a junior golfer to never underestimate anyone, no matter the size of his lead or the pedigree of his opponent.

And while the odds of Lefty finally winning in L.A. looked good as ever Saturday at the Northern Trust, where he shot a 1-under 70 for a one-shot lead overJeff Quinney, two holes showed how much work remains to add Riviera to his West Coast collection of trophies.

One came at the fabled par-3 sixth, where Quinney hit a seven-iron that he thought was headed for the bunker in the middle of the green, only to land just to the right and roll back into the cup for an ace. The other came at the end of the third round when Quinney holed a 35-foot birdie putt to close the margin to one stroke.

“If the guy is good enough to be in the last group, he’s obviously playing well enough to win,” Mickelson said. “I know that I won’t be handed anything tomorrow. I know how well Jeff is playing. And I know that there are guys that are right there and can shoot a low round tomorrow. It’s my job to go out and hit solid shots.”

Mickelson was at 11-under 202, and Quinney might be the only guy he has to worry about.


 

John Rollins lost momentum with consecutive bogeys and shot 69, leaving him five shots behind. Scott Verplank overcame a four-putt from 30 feet on the fringe at the par-5 first for a 71 that put him at 208, along with Stuart Appleby (69) and Vaughn Taylor (71).

A year ago, Mickelson had a one-shot lead over Padraig Harrington with five experienced players separated by only three shots. He wound up losing in a playoff to Charles Howell III.

“I like it better this time,” Mickelson said.

And well he should.

Mickelson has 32 career victories, 15 of those coming in every West Coast Swing city but Los Angeles. He is 18-7 when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round.

“Other than Tiger, he’s probably the next best front-runner,” Verplank said. “He’s awful good.”

Quinney, a former U.S. Amateur champion who took five years to reach the PGA Tour, has held the 54-hole lead only once, last year in Phoenix, and bogeyed the last two holes to finish third.

“He’s going to bring a lot to the table,” Quinney said. “I have to bring my best to the table.”

Quinney did not sound the least bit concerned about a four-shot deficit to Mickelson, saying after his second round that Riviera is not the type of course where one has to shoot 64 to make up ground.

Then, he looked as though he might do just that.

Quinney birdied the first hole with a long chip across the green on the par 5, then gained another shot when Lefty three-putted for bogey on No. 4. Quinney then holed a 20-foot birdie putt to reduce the lead to one-shot going into the sixth hole.

Then came an ace that he heard, but never really saw.

With a seven-iron from 163 yards, the ball landed to the edge of the bunker and trickled down toward the cup. Quinney couldn’t see because of the haze, but figured he was in decent safe and walked away from the tee. He looked over his left shoulder one last time, and his eyes grew wide when he heard an enormous cheer from the hill around the green.

He ran toward his caddie, unsure whether to hug or high-five, and it turned out to be a clumsy celebration.

“We need to get that organized,” he said.

That gave him the lead, but only for as long as Mickelson hit eight-iron to five feet and made birdie, putting both at 10 under.

“I thought that was as good of a response as I could have expected,” Mickelson said. “I thought that was a big 2 for me.”

They matched birdies at No. 10 – Quinney with a wedge to two feet, Mickelson by driving to the front of the green – and neither showed signs of backing down. But everything changed with one swing.

Mickelson was on the par-5 11th green in two, Quinney just short of the bunker. Quinney caught two much ball, however, and it sailed over the green. He chipped back to 15 feet and did well to escape with bogey.

But it was a two-shot swing after Mickelson two-putted for birdie, and Quinney spent the rest of the back nine trying to catch up. Mickelson saved par with a 10-foot putt on No. 15, then made par from about 6 feet on the final hole to keep his lead.

It wasn’t a big lead, not nearly as big as Mickelson wanted. But it was good enough for him.

“Tomorrow we’ll go head-to-head, and if I can just tie him, tie goes to me,” Mickelson said. “So that’s the nice thing about having a shot in hand.”

This Was the weekend of comebacks, Scott Hoch and Steve Lowery both did it.

Scott Hoch was trailing by three shots with eight holes to play, so he simply went back to basics.

The decision paid off. Hoch birdied five of the final eight holes for a one-shot victory in the Allianz Championship on Sunday.

After a bogey on the 10th hole, Hoch knocked in birdies on Nos., 11, 12, 15, 17 and 18 to finish at 4-under 68, one shot better than Brad Bryant and Bruce Lietzke. It was Hoch’s second win since joining the Champions Tour in 2006.

“It wasn’t looking good today,” Hoch said. “I just went back to basics instead of hitting shots according to conditions.”

He finished the tournament at 14-under 202.


 
 

Bryant was the leader in the clubhouse after shooting a 6-under 66, the best round of the day in windy conditions at The Old Course at Broken Sound. He started four shots behind second-round leader Jerry Pate, who was bidding to win his second straight Champions title.

Bryant was impressed by Hoch’s finish.

“That birdie (on 17) was just phenomenal,” Bryant said. “It’s probably the toughest hole out there today.

“When I finished, I thought we had an outside chance for a playoff. But the 18th was playing easy today.”

Hoch hit his drive down the middle and landed his second shot about 16 feet away for an easy two-putt for the winning birdie.

“Anytime you win a tournament, you have to have a little luck,” said Hoch, who took time to dedicate the victory to his ailing caddie, Greg Rita, who isn’t able to carry his bag. “Hopefully, he gets to come back and caddy for me again.”

Lietzke also held the lead briefly, but needed birdies at Nos. 16 and 18 to finish off a 4-under 68 to tie with Bryant at 203.

Eduardo Romero, who was tied for the lead until bogeying the 15th, tied with Bobby Wadkins at 12-under 204.

Keith Fergus, who eagled the first hole to get into contention, tied with Jay Haas and John Cook at 205. Pate and Tom Kite were next at 206.

Defending champion Mark James finished eight shots behind Hoch after shooting a 74 on Sunday.

Vijay Singh falters and Steve Lowery Wins after a frustrating 7 year drought

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Steve Lowery had gone more than seven years and 199 tournaments without winning, a drought that would have continued Sunday at Pebble Beach if not for a stunning collapse byVijay Singh.

Three shots behind when he stood on the 15th tee, Lowery made up quick ground when Singh made three straight bogeys, then won on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with a 7-foot birdie. At 47, he became the oldest winner in the 71-year history of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Lowery closed with a 4-under 68 and won for the third time in his career, all of them in playoffs.

Singh recovered from his three bogeys with a wedge that stopped 2 feet away for birdie on the final hole for a 71 to force the playoff. Both players finished at 10-under 278.

But the Fijian’s troubles only got worse playing the famous 18th hole at Pebble Beach a second time. His drive found a bunker to the right, and his second shot clipped the top of the bunker, leaving him 192 yards short of the green. A 4-iron for his third shot plugged into the side of another bunker, and he did well to blast out to 8 feet and make par.


 

Lowery’s birdie putt was good all the way, an amazing victory for a variety of reasons, least of all Singh’s collapse.

Lowery was No. 305 in the world when he arrived on the Monterey Peninsula. He finished 148th on the money list last year because of a wrist injury, and was given eight tournaments to make $282,558 to keep his card for the rest of the year.

That’s no longer a problem. Lowery earned US$1.08 million and a two-year exemption, sending Singh home to question whether his retooled swing can hold up under pressure.

Mike Weir (69) of Bright’s Grove, Ont., tied for 14th.

The first playoff at Pebble Beach since 1992 didn’t even seem remotely possibly when Lowery walked off the 14th green with a bogey. He was three shots behind Singh, who had just hit a brilliant flop shot to six feet to save par on the 13th.

Turns out that was a sign of sloppy play that followed.

Singh went at the flag on the 14th with a sand wedge from 92 yards, but it was a tad strong and spun down the slope, and the best he could do was chip to 20 feet and make bogey. He missed the 15th green to the left, chipped weakly and missed an eight-footer for par.

His fairway metal found a bunker off the 16th tee, and Singh powered that shot over the green, down the slope and into the back bunker. He blasted through the green and two-putted for bogey from the fringe to fall into a tie. Singh arrived on the 17th tee in time to watch Lowery hole a 20-foot birdie putt to take the lead, and if not for a couple of fortuitous bounces, Singh might not have been in a position for a playoff.

Singh’s three-foot par putt on the 17th swirled around the inside of the cup before falling, and his tee shot on the 18th was headed for a tree until it bounced off the trunk and deflected to the right. That gave him a clear shot at the green, setting up his wedge to two feet.

Dudley Hart, who started the final round tied with Singh, didn’t make a birdie until making three in a row at the end for a 72 to finish one shot out of the playoff. He tied for third withJohn Mallinger (65) and Corey Pavin (66).

Jason Day, the 20-year-old from Australia, finished alone in sixth after a 70.

Pebble Beach was the final tournament to qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship. Pat Perez shot 72 and tied for 24th, but it was enough for him to get into his first World Golf Championship. Perez moved up two spots to No. 64, and withErnie Els not playing, he will face Phil Mickelson in the first round.

J.B. Holmes, who missed the cut at Pebble, dropped to No. 65 and gets Tiger Woods, provided no one else withdraws.