Mickelson primed for Masters run

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Mickelson primed for Masters run


Phil Mickelson hits out of a bunker on the eighth hole during the final round of the Houston Open PGA Tour tournament in Humble, Texas. [AP/YONHAP]

HOUSTON - Phil Mickelson has regained his form just in time to try and defend his Masters title, out-duelling fellow American Scott Verplank down the stretch Sunday to capture the Houston Open.

The 40-year-old Mickelson fired a 7-under 65 to win by three strokes and post his first title since winning the 2010 Masters.

“I am very pleased I played well,” said Mickelson, who finished at 20-under 268. “It feels really good for me to have played well and gained some momentum heading into next week.

“I needed to have a week where I kind of put it together.”

It was also his first win since announcing at last year’s PGA Championship that he suffers from psoriatic arthritis, which he controls with medication. Verplank carded a 68 for 271, where he was joined by second-round leader Chris Kirk, who shot a fourth-round 67 at the $5.9 million tournament.

Mickelson, who earned his 39th career title, is hoping history will repeat itself - he is the last player to win the week before achieving a Masters’ title.

In 2006, Mickelson won the BellSouth Classic and then went on to take the green jacket.

The following year a schedule shift saw the Houston Open become the last event before the Masters.

Asked if Sunday’s win made him the favorite for next week’s Masters, Mickelson replied, “I don’t think that is for me to say. I am just trying to get my game ready.

“Next week at Augusta, that golf course can be very penalizing.”

The victory also vaults Mickelson into the third spot on the world ranking list, putting him four spots ahead of Tiger Woods, who fell to No. 7.

It marks the first time Mickelson has been in front of Woods in the rankings since the week before Woods won the Masters in 1997.

“I’ve been saying all year, ‘I’m playing well, but I’m not getting the scores out of it, and I’m just kind of having a lapse of focus,’” Mickelson said. “It was a great week in that regard, and great for getting momentum heading in next week.”

Mickelson opened his final round with a birdie on the par-four first hole, but really got things going with five consecutive birdies beginning on the par-three ninth.

The turning point for Mickelson came on the par-three 16th where he placed his tee shot within five feet of the flag.

Verplank dropped to three back on 16 after putting twice for bogey. His tee shot found the bunker by the green.

Mickelson solidified his reputation as one of the best closers on the tour. He has now won 21 of the last 30 events where he has either held or shared the lead heading into the final round.

Verplank, 46, was seeking to become the oldest winner on the PGA Tour since October, when 47-year-old Rocco Mediate captured the Frys Open.

At one point early in Sunday’s round, Verplank had a two-stroke lead. But it soon disappeared as Mickelson stepped up his game.

“I was birdieing every other hole,” Verplank said, “and I couldn’t pull away from the guy.


한글 관련 기사 [경향신문]

가족 우환·질병 딛고…미켈슨, 휴스턴 오픈 우승

통산 39승째… 랭킹 3위로

아내와 어머니의 연이은 유방암 진단, 그리고 지난해 8월부터 건선 관절염에 시달리는 등 우환이 끊이지 않던 필 미켈슨(미국)이 근 1년 만에 투어에서 우승했다.

미켈슨은 4일 미국 텍사스주 험블의 레드스톤골프장(파72·7457야드)에서 열린 미국프로골프(PGA) 투어 셸 휴스턴오픈(총상금 590만달러) 마지막날 7언더파 65타를 쳐 최종 합계 20언더파 268타를 기록, 공동 2위 스콧 버플랭크와 크리스 커크(이상 미국)를 3타차로 따돌리고 우승했다. PGA 투어 통산 39승째.

지난해 마스터스 토너먼트 이후 우승이 없어 세계랭킹 6위까지 떨어졌던 미켈슨은 이로써 세계랭킹 3위로 올라서게 됐다. 이번 대회에 출전하지 않은 타이거 우즈(미국)는 5위에서 7위까지 떨어질 예정이어서 미켈슨은 세계랭킹에서 14년 만에 처음으로 우즈를 앞설 전망이다.

8일부터 열리는 ‘명인열전’ 마스터스 대회를 앞두고 기분좋은 시즌 마수걸이를 한 미켈슨은 여세를 몰아 2주 연속 우승에 도전한다. ‘레프티’(왼손잡이)라는 애칭으로 미국인들로부터 우즈만큼이나 사랑받는 미켈슨의 이번 우승이 더욱 관심을 끄는 것은 그가 최근의 많은 우환을 딛고 일어섰기 때문이다.

2009년 아내와 어머니가 나란히 유방암에 걸려 한동안 투어출전조차 중단했던 미켈슨은 지난해 8월 PGA챔피언십 대회 중에는 건선 관절염에 걸렸다고 털어놓기도 했다. 건선 관절염은 피부질환과 관절염이 동시에 나타나는 증상으로 손·발가락이 붓기 때문에 골퍼에게는 치명적인 병이다.

버플랭크와 공동 선두로 최종라운드를 시작한 미켈슨은 9번홀부터 13번홀까지 5홀 연속 버디를 잡으며 사실상 승부를 갈랐다.

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