Phil Mickelson Phil Mickelson wins HSBC Champions in China

Phil Mickelson survived a roller-coaster final round at the Sheshan International Golf Club in China Sunday to win the HSBC Champions, the inaugural event of the European PGA Tour's 2008 season.

It was Mickelson's first win outside the United States since he won on the European Challenge Tour in 1993.

Mickelson won Sunday in a playoff, birdieing the second hole in sudden death to prevail over England's Lee Westwood and Ross Fisher.

But, Mickelson being Mickelson, it was anything but easy.

Mickelson neared the completion of his front nine on Sunday with a five-stroke lead over the field, and the tournament looked all but locked. Then came the bogeys, four from holes No. 8 through 14, and a double-bogey on No. 13. A birdie on the par-4 16th staunched some of the blood, but Mickelson still arrived on the 18th one stroke behind Fisher.

But perhaps the real story of the day was Westwood, who seemed out of contention before launching a birdie assault on the back-nine. He birdied six of seven on the backside, and might have been able to win the tournament outright had not to consecutive birdie putts - on Nos. 17 and 18 - lipped out.

Mickelson arrived at the par-5 18th one stroke behind Fisher, knowing one thing: He needed to go for the green in two. He found the water. It looked all but over when Fisher, also going for the green in two, found the front edge and looked to have a relatively straightforward pitch-and-putt.

Fisher than swung the door wide open. Fisher pitched his ball into the water and proceeded to make a double-bogey. Mickelson, despite his penalty stroke, had a putt for par to win the tournament outright - but he left the ball high of the hole.

The three each made par on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff. Then, returning to the 18th, it was Westwood this time who found the water - twice - all but taking him out of contention. This time Mickelson reached the green in two, played a simple flop to six feet and made his birdie to win the tournament.

Fisher tried to mask his disappointment at being so close to a win. "Obviously you come here to win and that wasn't the case, but i think i can walk out of here with my head held very high," he told reporters. "I played two rounds of golf with Phil Mickelson who, Tiger aside, is the best golfer in the world and I pushed him all the way."

"I don't really know what to say," Mickelson said. "I can' really believe I am sitting here as the champion. I was leading by a lot, looked like I had control, then I had six penalty shots, ended up two back with three to play and then ended up in a play-off!

"I don't really know how the day finished like this but I am certainly excited to be the HSBC champion and I guess that is the most important thing, I guess it doesn't really matter how. I didn't really like the back nine but [gesturing at the nearby trophy] I do now."

November 12, 2007

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