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Mickelson Is Master At Augusta Again

Phil Mickelson watches his drive on the ninth hole during third round play of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 9, 2006.
CBS
Phil Mickelson is a Masters champion again, and now he's making it look easy.

Once known as a lovable loser who needed a dozen years to figure out how to win golf's biggest events, Mickelson captured his second straight major Sunday at Augusta National — and this one was hardly a nail-biter. He closed with a 3-under 69 for a two-shot victory over Tim Clark, and his second green jacket in three years.

The only surprise was the way he won.

There were no thrills for Phil, rather calculated shots that forced Fred Couples, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh to try to catch him. Instead, they stumbled along with three-putts and a litany of other mistakes that allowed Mickelson to stroll up the 18th fairway already knowing how this major would end.

CBS' Steve Futterman reports golf fans used to make jokes about Mickelson's inability to win major championships, but that's no longer the case. With his Masters triumph, he has won three of the nine last majors.

He won his first major at Augusta two years ago with an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole. He added the PGA Championship last year at Baltusrol with a flop shot out of deep rough to 2 feet for another decisive birdie on the final hole.

Mickelson's only bogey on a breezy afternoon at Augusta National came when it no longer mattered. He missed the 18th green to the left, chipped to 20 feet, then settled for two putts and subdued celebration.

There was no need to leap with arms thrust into air, as he did two years ago. Gone was the look of utter shock on his face.

He plucked the ball out of the cup with a smile, removed his visor and waved to the crowd. He spent the next few minutes with his three children draped around his neck, and headed into the scoring trailer.

"In '04 when I won, I felt this great feeling of relief that I could win the tournament I dreamt about," Mickelson said. "This time, it's a great feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment to have been able to beat such a great field."

The rest of the Big Five was lined up behind him, all within four shots going into the final round.

None could touch him.

Mickelson finished at 7-under 281 and earned $1.26 million, putting him atop the PGA Tour money list. The victory also moved him up to No. 2 in the world ranking behind Woods.

Mickelson emerged as a major threat to Woods' pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record 18 victories in Grand Slam events. This was the third straight year Mickelson has won a major — Woods is the only other player to have done that in the last 20 years. Only five others have won majors in three straight seasons since the Masters began in 1934.

Clark holed a bunker shot from across the 18th green for birdie that left him alone in second with a 69.

Woods, who was trying to become the first player to twice defend his Masters title, could only blame his putter. He had two eagle putts inside 15 feet on the back nine and missed them both, and he had six three-putts this week. He holed a 25-foot birdie on the 18th hole that just about made him curse, although it gave him a 70 and a tie for third.

"I putted atrociously today," Woods said. "As good as I hit it, that's as bad as I putted."

At the green jacket ceremony, Mickelson asked the crowd for a moment of silence to pray for Woods' father, Earl, who could not travel to Augusta for the first time because of cancer.

Woods said he would talk to his father Sunday night, and joked that "he's probably a little mad at how I putted today."

Joining Woods at 4-under 284 were Couples (71), Retief Goosen (69), Chad Campbell (71) and Jose Maria Olazabal, whose 66 was the best score all week on the super-sized course.

But it was Couples who had the best chance to challenge Mickelson, and had he won, it would have been especially poignant.