Phil Mickelson Phil Mickelson finally outduels Tiger in final round at Deutsche Bank

After several failed attempts to stare down Tiger Woods in a final round and win, Phil Mickelson finally broke through in a Monday finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Playing along with Woods for the third time in the tournament in the next-to-last group, Mickelson surged to the lead on the front nine and then held for the win at the TPC of Boston in Norton, Mass., with a score of 16-under 268. The Labor Day victory was worth $1.26 million for Mickelson and pushed the world No. 3-ranked player to the top of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings.

Mickelson used five birdies in his first 10 holes to overtake first-round leader Brett Wetterich and reach 16 under par. He was then able to overcome a double-bogey on the par-4 12th hole and match Woods with birdies on Nos. 16 and 18 to produce a two-shot victory over Woods, Wetterich and Arron Oberholser.

Winning was especially sweet, Mickelson said, because he was able to prevail while going head-to-head with Woods. Perhaps the key shot of the tournament came when Mickelson hit an 8-iron to within six feet on No. 16 to set up his birdie, answering Woods after he had landed his approach 10 feet from the hole.

"To be able to stand up on 16 after he knocked it close and follow it with a birdie of my own - knock it inside of him to finish with a couple birdies coming in to win - it feels terrific," Mickelson told reporters following his closing round of 5-under-par 66. "Now, the next step is to try to hopefully go head-to-head in a major. We don't get paired very often in majors, and hopefully next year in '08, we'll have a chance to do that."

Despite now leading the chase for the FedEx Cup - and its $10 million deferred top prize - with 108,613 points, Mickelson hasn't committed to play in the next playoff event, the BMW Championship Sept. 6-9 at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Ill. Steve Stricker is second in the FedEx Cup points race (106,200), while Woods is third (103,733), K.J. Choi is fourth (102,900) and Rory Sabbatini is fifth (102,388).

Woods, who began the day three shots off the lead and one stroke behind Mickelson, finished with a 4-under 67. However, he struggled to make birdie putts, especially on the front nine when Mickelson was making his move.

"All I know is we had to go catch Brett. I was three back, [Mickelson] was two back, and we had to go get him," Woods said in his post-round press conference. "Then Phil got off to a great start [and] then we all had to go get Phil. That was the mindset going on out there today. Unfortunately I just didn't make enough putts to really push him."

Mickelson certainly seemed to feel like he was challenged - and this time he survived.

"I loved this finish," Mickelson said. "I loved being able to play three rounds with the best player of arguably all time and certainly the best player in the world today, and to be able to come out on top feels great."

The win was the first for Mickelson since The Players Championship in mid-May. A few weeks later, he injured his wrist while playing a practice round for the U.S. Open and has struggled from that point on.

Mickelson missed the cut in the U.S. Open and British Open and failed to crack the top 30 in the PGA Championship before coming around for a seventh-place finish in the first FedEx Cup playoff event at The Barclays.

"It's exciting because I feel like I had a three-month sabbatical there where I couldn't practice, I couldn't swing aggressively into the ball, and I have enjoyed this whole week going into some of this turf," Mickelson said. "It's firm, taking aggressive divots and not having any pain. I've been able to practice, come out early a few hours and have good practice sessions to get ready.

"It's been a night-and-day difference, and that's why I'm so excited to play here at the end of the year and have been able to play well because of it."

September 4, 2007

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