Mickelson Rides Roller Coaster To Victory

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Phil Mickelson even had the energy to carry his caddie Jim MacKay around the course.

    All weekend long, Phil Mickelson’s game road the rollercoaster between brilliance and self destruction, so what did you expect from him on Sunday?

    He was -9 under par yesterday and +1 over today, but Mickelson was brilliant when he needed to be on the final three holes, and that was enough to hold on for an -15 and his second consecutive Northern Open Trust title at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. This was his 35th career win on tour.

    So is Mickelson back and ready to take on Tiger next weekend? Depends on what hole you were watching.

    Mickelson arrived at the course with a seemingly insurmountable four-stroke lead, then he  opened with an eagle and looked like he was gong to run away with it. However, the roller coaster went down the slope faster than a Six Flags ride. Mickelson was stringing together bogeys while Steve Stricker was stringing together birdies (on his way to a 4-under par 67 that gave him a -14 for the weekend). Stricker had the lead and Mickelson was two strokes back with just three holes to play.

    Then the roller coaster started back up, at the same time Stricker tightened up with the lead.

    Stricker missed a makeable birdie put on the par-five 17th then bogeyed 18 (he hit his drive in the rough, but really flubbed his third shot, the one on to the green, leaving him 15 feet for par, which he missed left).

    Meanwhile, Mickelson was the only person on the day to pull out a 9-iron on the 165-yard par three 16th, and it was the perfect club as he landed inside four feet from the pin. His birdie putt came just as Stricker, two holes ahead, bogeyed and opened the door.

    On the 17th, Mickelson became the second player of the day for to reach the par-5 green in two (Fred Couples, also in the last group, was the other). He hit a nice lag putt with his third then nailed his fourth. Suddenly Mickelson was back in the lead.

    Couples tried to push him but had maybe the saddest story of the day. The popular two-time winner of this tournament was one back and playing aggressive going for birdie on 18 to tie. But his second shot hit a tree as Couples cut it too close going for the pin, and that did him in.

    On the 18th, Mickelson still had a four footer for par and the win that was no gimmee. But at this point the roller coaster was going up — it went dead center of the cup.

    Next weekend, Phil may need to be more steady, but for one weekend he was as big as any star in Los Angeles.

    Kurt Helin has walked the Riviera Country Club course and swore at that time never to play it. He'll stick to his basketball blog.