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Mickelson wins one showdown sets up another

2007 WGC CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. ' More often than not the script doesnt settle as penned. The golf world wanted Tiger vs. Phil at Doral, would have celebrated Tiger vs. Camilo ' considering the Latino tilt of the south Florida masses ' and settled for Tiger vs. Geoff. We got Phil vs. Nick, which in retrospect hardly turned out to be a B flight or reason to tune out.
Particularly when the distance between the contenders and those lined up to simply cash a check spanned the Everglades and yet the outcome remained in doubt through the final green.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson hoists his first WGC trophy. (Getty Images)
Read into Phil Mickelsons one-shot buzzer beater at the WGC-CA Championship at your own risk. It was not a Doral do-over, salving the sting of that blow-for-blow he dropped to Tiger Woods before the WGC banner came to Miami. Nor was it a perfectly-timed told you so that coincided with Leftys quiet pairing with Butch Harmon two years ago here at Doral.
At best, Mickelsons World Golf Championship breakthrough was an attention getting qualifying lap with an intense eye toward Augusta National.
Mickelson visited Augusta National earlier in the week and gushed after his opening-round 7-of-14 fairways hit, offering of his new, screw it philosophy off the tee.
He has a lot of confidence in the swing changes weve made, Harmon said. Everything were doing right now is gearing toward Augusta National.
But it was his putter ' combined with the best of modern medicine and an upgraded conditioning program ' that netted Tour title No. 36 and the first WGC of his Hall of Fame career.
For the week, Mickelson took just 99 putts, second among a field of the worlds best, including just eight over his final nine holes on Thursday. Whatever the tonic, Mickelson has now won twice heading toward Magnolia Lane ' in Los Angeles with something less than his best stuff and at Doral with something less than a quarter tank physically.
On the eve of his final-round bout with Nick Watney, Mickelson was hustled to a local Urgent Care facility, suffering from cold chills and dehydration, the byproduct, Mickelson said, of a virus. He remained in bed until 1:30 p.m. on game day Sunday and arrived at Doral weak and unable to perform his regular warm-up.
I said before we teed off, beware the injured golfer, Mickelson said.
Watney, who suffered an injury only to his young psyche on Sunday, wasnt too bad either.
The world descended on Miami for a World Golf Championship, and a California Amateur broke out. Mickelson, a SoCal staple, and Watney, the pride of Fresno, began the final turn four clear of the field. By the time the final two-ball made the turn, Watneys 8 -footer for eagle at the 10th hole combined with Mickelsons tap-in for birdie pushed the duo a touchdown clear of the field. Welcome to the WGC-CA Match Play Championship.
On Thursday, Henrik Stenson played a shot from a water hazard as God made me, or, to be precise, in his unmentionables and a golf glove. On Sunday, Watney and Mickelson played alone, or at least it seemed, and fully clothed and simply pantsed the field.
By the time the pair reached the fearsome18th, after trading pars for the previous five holes, Mickelson smoothed the type of drive that would have won him that U.S. Open at Winged Foot, an aggressive line that sailed over the watery blue and into the fairway. In many ways Doral has become a fairytale, a closing Monster and 17 mice.
You've got to hit it in the fairway there, and if I hit it in the water, I'm looking at losing the tournament rather than trying to win it, said Mickelson, who closed with a 69, his fourth round in the 60s, for a 19-under 269 total. When the drive came off, that felt awesome.
Yet, as clutch as Mickelsons closing salvo was, his CA performance was as much a result of an intensified workout regimen with his trainer, Sean Cochran, as it was his two-years with Harmon. Mickelson and Cochran have been working together since 2003 but switched up the routine this off-season in an attempt to have Lefty peak at the majors.
When you get dehydrated its hard to get your body caught up just with fluids. Thats why you need an IV, Cochran said. For him not feeling physically at his peak, this is a huge step for him.
Although it probably didnt feel like it as the sun melted out of the south Florida sky Sunday, Doral was also a huge step for Watney.
Victories in New Orleans in 2007 and earlier this year at Torrey Pines established Watney as an American up-and-comer, but his blow-for-blow duel with Mickelson proved hes prepared for the biggest stages.
Watney is big and strong and a tad bland, which is less an indictment of his game as it is a general observation. He earned his spot in the days marquee pairing with a pair of steely sand saves and a timely up-and-down at the 18th on Saturday. On Sunday, the 27-year-old showed why Harmon kept the quiet kid from Fresno among his select stable of Tour players, matching Mickelson shot for shot until the final hole when his birdie attempt to square the match stopped two rotations short.
As Nicks ball rolled toward the hole . . . Ive been there man, Mickelson said.
Despite two awkward lies in bunkers that ultimately cost him his first WGC, Watney closed with a 70, his only round above 67 all week.
I dream of moments like that (at No. 18), in my dreams it comes out a little different, said Watney, emotional following the most high-profile duel of his career. I had a solid week, beat 78 of the best players in the world. I beat Tiger Woods.
As for the world's No. 1, his ballstriking looked as sound as it did two weeks earlier in Tucson, but his putting was often a few blades off. He ranked 74th in the field in putts per greens in regulation and tied for ninth, his highest finish in this event since 2004.
The good news is I got better each and every day, Woods said. My ballstriking, my feel got better each and every day. Im happy with the way I played, I didnt say the way I finished.
Good news for those script writers penning Masters tomes, but not for those coloring outside the lines.
(Woods) will get back to that level, said Mickelson, a smile creeping into his delivery, Im hoping it is in five weeks and not four.
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