2006: Phil Mickelson earns second Masters win

The man who couldn't win major championships is stockpiling them quicker than anyone else in the game.

Phil Mickelson's second Masters Tournament victory was his third major championship in nine starts, and second in a row after August's PGA Championship.

No one - not even world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who tied for third place Sunday - has that kind of winning percentage during that span.

Before winning the 2004 Masters, Mickelson had been winless in 46 majors.

"Three of nine; that sounds better, doesn't it?" Mickelson said.

He struck for four birdies in a final-round 3-under-par 69, which was good enough for a two-shot victory.

He finished at 7-under 281 on the toughened-up Augusta National Golf Club, the highest winning total since Mike Weir shot that score in 2003.

Tim Clark holed out a shot from the right bunker on the 18th hole for 69 and a second-place finish.

Five players - Jose Maria Olazabal (66 on Sunday), Retief Goosen (69), Woods (70), Fred Couples and Chad Campbell (71s) - tied for third place, three shots behind Mickelson.

"When I look back on it, I think what I'm most proud of is that I didn't let other people back in it," Mickelson said. "They had to come and chase me down and make birdies to do it."

The left-handed Mickelson opened the tournament with a 70 to tie for fourth place, was tied for fifth after a second-round 72 and led after a third-round 70.

There was no stopping Mickelson, who came into the week on a roll after winning last week's BellSouth Classic with a 28-under total.

"I had a good feeling about this tournament; obviously, winning by 13 last week helped," Mickelson said. "But I knew I was playing well, and I knew I was prepared for the tournament. But I still had to execute."

Mickelson, who is now 35 under in his last eight rounds, is only the fifth player to win his previous tournament before a Masters victory. Sandy Lyle was the last one to do it, in 1988.

"After last week, he just destroyed everybody," said Stewart Cink, who shot 70 on Sunday to finish 10th. "This week, it didn't look like he made many mistakes and he played solid."

"He continued what he had last week," Woods said.

It was the 16th consecutive year that the Masters winner emerged from the final pairing.

It didn't hurt Mickelson that the easygoing Couples, a teammate on Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, was his playing partner.

"I love playing with Fred," Mickelson said. "We had a great time and we kept saying how lucky we were to be in the final pairing on Sunday at the Masters, and how much fun it was. It made for a very fun day. We were pulling for each other to make some birdies and encouraging each other."

Asked whether there would have been a similar atmosphere had he been paired with Woods or Vijay Singh, Mickelson laughed and said, "That probably wouldn't have happened."

Counting the 13 holes he played Sunday morning to complete the rain-delayed third round, Mickelson played 31 holes in 4-under fashion.

"It was a long day, but it was a wonderful day," Mickelson said. "I'll cherish that final round."

Mickelson said his overriding feeling after the first Masters victory was relief, because he shook the "best player never to win a major" tag.

"Today, I felt this great feeling of accomplishment to be able to beat guys like Tiger and Retief and Ernie (Els) and Vijay and Fred and some incredible and talented players," Mickelson said.

In the majors, Mickelson has won the 2004 Masters, the 2005 PGA and now the Masters again. He is now one of 16 players with multiple Masters victories.

It was the 29th victory on the PGA Tour for Mickelson. He earned $1,260,000 for the victory, moving him from fifth on the tour's money list to first with $3,123,827.

The latest win was a commanding performance. The world's No. 4 ranked player carried a one-shot lead into the final round and led by four after 15 holes.

Mickelson's 69 matched his final-round score in his 2004 victory at Augusta National, but that was about the only similarity.

That year, Mickelson needed to birdie No. 18 for the victory. He also had to birdie the final hole at Baltusrol Golf Club in August to win the PGA Championship.

This time, he carried a three-shot lead into the home hole.

"This is a lot better, I loved it," said Mickelson, who described his walk up the 18th fairway as "stress-free."

It was the largest margin of victory in this tournament since 2002, when Woods won by three shots.

"They are going to win this thing several more times," Couples said of Mickelson and Woods.

To counter the 155 extra yards added to the course this year, Mickelson used two drivers - one for a draw and the other for a fade. He ended up leading the field in average driving distance.

"It was a huge help," Mickelson said of the two drivers, which he used for the first time last week at the BellSouth Classic as a tune-up for the Masters. "I got 20, 25 more yards with the driver that draws."

For the week, Mickelson had 43 pars, 18 birdies and 11 bogeys.

"I'd like to say one thing about the changes: I like them," Mickelson said.

He took the thrill out of the back nine, leading the entire way.

"It was an easy 69," Couples said. "He didn't struggle at all."

Mickelson took the lead for good with a birdie on No. 8. He went two shots up on Couples on No. 11, where Mickelson made par and Couples missed his third short putt of the day to take bogey.

Mickelson's rivals faded the rest of the way. Couples made bogey on No. 14, putting him three behind Mickelson.

Yet Mickelson didn't back off. He was pin high on the par-5 15th, nearly chipped in for eagle and made his birdie to go up by four.

"I'm glad I was able to finish it off on the back nine because it doesn't always happen that way," Mickelson said.

Woods struggled with his putter in the final round. He had 33 putts, including three three-putt greens.

"The way I controlled my ball flight, I thought today was the day if I'd putted normal," Woods said. "It's the most three putts I've ever had here."

Woods was hoping a win would give a boost to his father, Earl, who is battling cancer in California. This is the first year Earl Woods was unable to make the trip to Augusta.

"I'm sure he's watching and probably a little mad at me for the way I putted," Woods said. "I'm sure he knows what I did wrong."

Mickelson mentioned Earl Woods' health during the outdoor green jacket presentation ceremony. His remarks came after Woods, the defending champion, presented Mickelson with the green jacket.

"I'd like to take one moment to ask if we could all say a little prayer tonight," Mickelson said.

"Tiger's father is not feeling well. We all know how important parents are in our lives."

Mickelson asked the crowd "to take a moment tonight and wish him well and hope he recovers."

Mickelson was tied for fourth place when third-round play was suspended by darkness Saturday night. At the time, he was 1 under on his round through five holes and trailed Campbell by three.

On Sunday morning, Mickelson played his final 13 holes in 1-under fashion for 70. Campbell was 3 over on the 14 holes he played, but was still just one shot off Mickelson's lead. He was joined there by Couples and Darren Clarke, who had 72s in the third round.

Mickelson had three birdies and two bogeys to finish the third round. One of those bogeys came on the 18th hole, where he was distracted when a photographer's camera went off in his backswing on the tee. He hit his shot in a bunker, then flew the green and two-putted for bogey.

"To have something like that happen that affects the event is upsetting," Mickelson said after the round.

Nothing distracted Mickelson in the final round. He never trailed and didn't make a bogey until the final hole.

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