Tiger Woods defied the odds again, erasing a seven-stroke lead in just seven holes. Just as quickly, he fell victim to his own mistakes and a sudden revival by the left handed Phil Mickelson at Torrey Pines South Course.
The longest PGA TOUR winning streak since Ben Hogan in 1948 stopped on Sunday at the Buick Invitational, where Mickelson won for the first time in 18 months and left Byron Nelson's record run of 11 straight victories as the standard.
"At least I made it interesting for Phil," Woods said.
In a final round packed with as much drama as a major championship, Mickelson recovered from two double bogeys with back-to-back birdies that finally gave him a lead too large even for Woods to overcome.
Mickelson closed with a 2-under 70 for a four-stroke victory over Woods and Shigeki Maruyama, the 14th of his career. He finished at 18-under 270 and earned a career-high $540,000.
"I have a lot of confidence after this week," Mickelson said. "I tackled the best in the world and I won."
And so, the guy who started 'The Streak', finally ended it six months later. Mickelson was on the other end six months ago in the World Golf Championship NEC Invitational when he trailed Woods by seven strokes going into the final round. Then, he closed with a 65, but made bogeys on two of the last three holes to finish one stroke behind. That was Woods' first victory in a streak that has captivated the golf world and gave Woods an even more intimidating presence on the leaderboard.
This time, Woods was the one behind, seven strokes down with 12 holes to play. Six holes later, Woods pointed at the cup as his ball fell to the bottom for a 5-foot birdie on the par-5 13th hole that gave him a share of the lead at 15 under.
Visibly rattled, after seeing the possibility of history repeating itself, Mickelson finally answered. After pushing his tee shot under a eucalyptus tree and having to lay up, he hit a 116-yard wedge to 2 feet for birdie to regain the lead.
It was Woods who would falter over the closing stages. His normally trustworthy swing left town and he limped home, albeit in a share for second with a closing 68.
With only a 9-iron in his hand, he was 25 feet right of his target, above the hole on the par-4 14th, blew his putt 6 feet by and missed the return. This after taking only 15 putts on his first 13 holes.
Mickelson, watching from the fairway as Woods made his first bogey in 44 holes, dropped a wedge into 6 feet for birdie and a three-stroke lead. Woods then bogeyed the par-3 16th, failing to get up and down from the bunker, and a smile crept over his face. "It means I came in second," Woods said. And it means Nelson, who set his remarkable record in 1945, can relax.
"It's disappointing I didn't win," Woods said. "I just wasn't hitting it good enough to give myself a viable chance down the stretch, and it finally caught up with me. To even be under par was kind of a miracle."
Woods hit only 10 greens in regulation and missed eight fairways, but he still scraped together a 68, and he still gave Mickelson a major scare. Maruyama had a 72 in his quest to become the first Japanese player since Isao Aoki in 1983 to win on the PGA TOUR. Courtesy of the PGA Tour. For full results and up to date statistics, go to www.pgatour.com