This is the way you conquer Pebble Beach: You go out in the final round on the opening holes, the ones historically the easiest, and make birdies and maybe an eagle. Which is exactly what Phil Mickelson did Sunday.
Phil the Mick, Lefty, the guy who a few months from his 42nd birthday seemed on the downside of his career, overtook Pebble, playing partner Tiger Woods, Charlie Wi and everything and everyone else.
It was a bravura performance. It was a championship performance.
And so for the fourth time — 2012, 2007, 2005 and 1998, the latter when the field returned in August to play the last day of the tournament that was halted in February — Mickelson is the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am winner.
And for the 40th time, since turning pro here before the 1992 U.S. Open, he’s a winner on the PGA Tour, passing Tom Watson and tying him with Cary Middlecoff at 40 wins.
“Regardless of the number,” Mickelson said, “it feels great because it’s a special place for me, Pebble Beach, my grandfather having caddied here, such a national treasure. It means a lot because the last year I haven’t played the way I would like to.”
He played that way Sunday, shooting an 8-under-par 64 for a 72-hole score of 17-under-par 269. That was two strokes better than Wi, the 40-year-old from Cal, who led by three shots after three rounds — by six over Mickelson — and rallied with birdies the last three holes to shoot 72 for 271.
Tiger? The man who drew the huge crowds on a damp gloomy day? Who on Saturday had Monterey resident Reggie Jackson, the baseball Hall of Famer, standing in the rain? Who after 54 holes said he was exactly where he wanted to be, which was third place, four shots behind Wi?
He shot a 3-over-par 75, 11 shots worse than Mickelson. All the optimism and hope of the previous three days drifted away in the mist off Carmel Bay. In his return to the AT&T for the first time since 2002, Woods tied for 15th at 8-under 278.
Not since September 2009 has Tiger won a full-field event in the United States.
“As good as I felt on the greens [Saturday] is as bad as I felt Sunday,” Woods said. “I could not get comfortable. I just could not get comfortable. It was frustrating.”
The two best of the past 15 years, Mickelson going in one direction (up) Woods in another. Or in truth, going nowhere.
“People think it’s a couple of years,” Tiger said of his winless streak, reminding he did win the 18-player Chevron in December. “But I won a couple of months ago. I’m off to my first start of the year here in the States, and I look for improvement.”
Mickelson has improved, and showed it. His putting was as spectacular as Woods’ was depressing.
Phil holed a 30-footer for par on 12, a 2-footer for a birdie on 13, a 6-footer for a birdie on 14 and then, when it seemed he might stumble after a poor bunker shot, a 38-footer for a par on 15.
“It’s one of the more emotional victories for me,” said Mickelson, whose wife, Amy, recovering from breast cancer, flew in. “I’ve had some doubts these last couple of weeks.”
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.