SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Phil Mickelson didn’t get the PGA Tour’s all-time scoring record but he did get the victory he wanted at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday.
Mickelson started the final round leading by six and ended up beating Brandt Snedeker by four to become the first wire-to-wire winner in Phoenix since Steve Jones’ 1997 victory — and just the second here in 43 years. The last player to lead after each of the first three rounds and go on to victory was Rory McIlroy in the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional.
“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, who closed with a 67 on Sunday, also earned a share of the tournament’s 72-hole scoring record but fell two strokes shy of the PGA Tour mark. Mark Calcavecchia also shot 28 under in his 2001 victory.
The win was the 41st of Mickelson’s World Golf Hall of Fame career and his third at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, tying him with Calcavecchia, Gene Littler and Arnold Palmer for the most all-time. He has now won 19 times in California and Arizona — and will defend the 18th next week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
“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.”
Snedeker didn’t make it easy on Mickelson, though. He closed to within three strokes for the second time on Sunday when he made a 5-footer for birdie at the 16th hole. He and Mickelson matched birdies at the driveable 17th but Snedeker bogeyed the 18th.
“It was a ton of fun,” Snedeker said. “To be in the last group with Phil and kind of trade birdie for birdie and make up some ground was a lot of fun. It’s what we play for. … I wish I could have put some more pressure on him and got a little closer than I did today, but I think I shot 12 under par on the weekend and made one bogey.
“Sometimes you have to tip your hat and say Phil played unbelievable and deserved to win, and that’s kind of what this week was all about.”
Snedeker, who closed with a 65, has now finished second the last two weeks — losing to Tiger Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open and Mickelson in Phoenix. He finished solo third at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, as well.
How well did Mickelson play at TPC Scottsdale this week? He led the field in greens in regulation and was 10th in putting. He made 29 birdies and one eagle while dropping just three shots to par with one bogey and one double bogey over 72 holes.
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 51 weeks ago at Pebble Beach.
Making his 24th appearance in the event that he also won in 1996 and 2005, Mickelson tied the tournament scoring record. With six victories in Arizona, Mickelson also matched Johnny Miller’s tour record.
Mickelson won after struggling the last two weeks in his season-opening events — tying for 37th at La Quinta and 51st at Torrey Pines — and causing a sensation by talking about tax increases. He received $1.116 million for the win, or $424,080 after the 62 percent state and federal taxes he said he must pay.
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 hole 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 rolled to a stop 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 on the hole 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.
In his 24th appearance at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Phil Mickelson carded an opening-round 60 and was never headed, posting a wire-to-wire, four-stroke victory, his 41st career win on the PGA Tour.
Mickelson started the final round with a six-stroke lead over 2012 FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker but Snedeker closed the gap to three strokes several times, most recently with a birdie at No. 16. Mickelson provided a bit of drama by almost hitting his tee shot at the drivable par-4 17th into the water.
However, the ball stopped just short of the hazard and Mickelson got the ball up and down for birdie, holing a 14-foot putt that maintained his three-stroke advantage and clinched the victory.
Mickelson joined Mark Calcavecchia, Gene Littler and Arnold Palmer as the fourth three-time winner of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
At 28-under 256, Mickelson tied Mark Calcavecchia (2001) for the 72-hole tournament record and matched the second-lowest score in a 72-hole tournament on the PGA TOUR. Here’s a chart of the bestscores in PGA Tour history for four-round events:
254 (26-under) – Tommy Armour III (2003 Valero Texas Open)
256 (26-under) — Phil Mickelson (2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open)
256 (28-under) – Mark Calcavecchia (2001 Waste Management Phoenix Open)
257 (27-under) – Mike Souchak (1955 Valero Texas Open)
257 (23-under) – Tiger Woods (2007 Tour Championship)
Mickelson became the first wire-to-wire winner on the PGA Tour since Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open. He also joined Steve Jones (1997) as the second wire-to-wire winner at the Waste Management Phoenix Open since 1970.
Mickelson tied Johnny Miller for the most wins in the state of Arizona:
Miller (6) – 1974, 1975 Waste Management Phoenix Open, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1981 Tucson Open
Mickelson (6) – 1996, 2005, 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open, 1991, 1995, 1996 Nortel Open
Mickelson now has at least one victory in each of the last 10 seasons on the PGA Tour, the longest active streak. It’s also his 20th year with at least one PGA Tour title. Only Sam Snead (24) and Jack Nicklaus (21) have won at least one TOUR event in more years. Mickelson’s first TOUR title came as an amateur at the 1991 Nortel Open in Tucson.
In his professional career, Mickelson has now won all five times he’s shot 62 or better in a Tour event.
Mickelson played the final four holes at the TPC Scottsdale in a cumulative 10-under for the week. Conversely, Brandt Snedeker played those same four holes in only 6-under while Scott Piercy played them in 7-under.
2012 FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, recorded his third top-3 finish in four starts this year and fifth top-3 performance in his last eight PGA Tour starts dating back to last year. Snedeker also finished second for the second straight week.
Snedeker’s runner-up finish this week moved him atop the 2013 FedEx Cup standings after five events (782 points). Phil Mickelson’s win moved him into third place in the FedEx Cup standings with 546 points.
Snedeker posted the lowest four-round total in the history of the Waste Management Phoenix Open that didn’t win the event. John Rollins (2007), John Huston (2001) and Rocco Mediate (2001) all carded 72-hole scores of 20-under 264 to finish second. At the 2010 John Deere Classic, Paul Goydos shot 24-under 260 but lost to Steve Stricker by two strokes.
Snedeker made his seventh career appearance in the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week. His previous-best finish at this event was a T8 in 2011.
In his 15 rounds thus far in 2013, Snedeker has had 12 rounds in the 60s. With Snedeker’s 65 in round four, he is now 29/33 for subpar rounds in official PGA Tour events, dating to the start of the Wyndham Championship in August of last year.
Additional Player Notes
Scott Piercy’s 10-under-par 61 was the low Sunday score and matched his career-best round on the PGA Tour. He first posted 61 in the third round of the 2011 Reno-Tahoe Open and it led to his first of two PGA Tour titles. Piercy, who was T74 after the first round, eventually finished in third-place, his best performance in an official event since winning the RBC Canadian Open last year.
Ryan Palmer’s 9-under 62 today included eight birdies and an eagle and he also equaled his career-low score on the PGA Tour set on three previous occasions, most recently at the 2006 Farmers Insurance Open (round 2). The round vaulted Palmer up into fifth place, his best finish since a T3 at last year’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.
James Hahn made the biggest move of the day, vaulting 42 spots into a T16 after shooting a 9-under 62. Hahn, a rookie on the PGA Tour this year, shot 62 on Sunday of the Humana Challenge to finish T4.
Brendan Steele’s 67 today led to a T6, his second consecutive top-10 finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Steele was T5 at the TPC Scottsdale last year .
Defending champion Kyle Stanley finished last among the 74 players who made the cut on Friday. Stanley won the tournament with a score of 15-under. This week, Stanley was even-par 284 for 72 holes.
For the first time in the lengthy history of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a total of four players finished lower than 20-under-par. Only two players were 20-under or better at the TPC Scottsdale in 2007, 2003 and 2001.
Three of the first five events on the 2013 PGA Tour have been won with scores of 24-under or better including two with totals of 256 – Phil Mickelson (-28/Waste Management Phoenix Open), Russell Henley (-24/Sony Open in Hawaii). Brian Gay also won the Humana Challenge in a playoff after recording a score of 25-under 265.
For the second time in three events, a player over the age of 41 has won a PGA Tour title. Brian Gay won the Humana Challenge at 41 years, 1 month, 6 days. Phil Mickelson’s victory today came at 42 years, 7 months, 18 days.
R1: Phil Mickelson (60), Ryan Palmer (64), Padraig Harrington (64), Roberto Castro (65), Y.E. Yang (65), Justin Leonard (65), Hunter Mahan (67), Bryce Molder (67), D.A. Points (67), Keegan Bradley (67), Greg Chalmers (68).
R2: Charlie Wi (63), Bill Haas (64), Chad Campbell (65), Ryan Moore (66), Chris Stroud (66), William McGirt (66), Rory Sabbatini (66), Hunter Mahan (67), James Hahn (67).
R3: Phil Mickelson (64), Ben Crane (64), Brandt Snedeker (65), Brendan Steele (65), Justin Leonard (66), Gary Woodland (67), Bryce Molder (67), Tim Clark (68), James Driscoll (69).
R4: Scott Piercy (61), James Hahn (62), Bubba Watson (64), Bud Cauley (65), Hank Kuehne (66), Bill Haas (67), K.J. Choi (68), Dickie Pride (69), Justin Leonard (70).