Championship To Phil, FedEx Cup For Tiger

September 26, 2009

After a slow start to his day, Tiger Woods charged with two late birdies, but came up just short of catching Mickelson.

ATLANTA (AP) -- Phil Mickelson capped off a tumultuous summer at home with a spectacular rally Sunday to win the Tour Championship.

Tiger Woods finished another big year by winning the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus.

In a riveting conclusion to golf's regular season, its two biggest stars shared the stage at East Lake with trophies that were meaningful in vastly different ways.

Mickelson seized control with a 31 on the front nine and closed with a 5-under 65 for a three-shot victory, his first since his wife and his mother were diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring. Both have a positive outlook in the recovery, although it has been an emotional burden for Lefty over the last three months.

For the third time this year, Woods struggled while playing in the final pairing. He didn't make a birdie until the 15th hole, and by then it was too late to catch Mickelson. Woods closed with an even-par 70, ending his playoff streak of eight consecutive rounds in the 60s, and was alone in second.

Even so, he received quite a consolation prize -- a FedEx Cup title that rewarded him for a remarkable year in which he came back from major knee surgery not knowing what to expect. Woods won six times, and was either first or second in more than half his events.

Mickelson, who returned to No. 2 in the world with his victory, finished at 9-under 271. He needed Woods to finish eighth or worse to have any chance in the FedEx Cup, although Mickelson still climbed to No. 2 and earned a $3 million bonus, on top of his $1.35 million for winning the Tour Championship.

Four players had a chance to win the FedEx Cup along the back nine.

Kenny Perry was the projected winner until he chopped up the par-5 ninth with a bogey and completed his meltdown on the back nine on his way to a 74. Steve Stricker, who only had to finish ahead of Woods when it became clear Mickelson would win the tournament, was in position to do that until mud on his ball in the 16th fairway led to a bogey. Stricker shot a 69 and finished sixth.

"I knew it was close, put it that way," Stricker said of the FedEx Cup race. "Whatever. I played my hardest."

Mickelson closed out the decade with bookend victories at East Lake. He also won the Tour Championship in 2000 when he rallied to beat Woods in the final round. This one was even more impressive.

Confident as ever from his putting tips from former PGA champion Dave Stockton, Mickelson rolled in consecutive birdie putts of 15 feet on No. 3 and 30 feet on No. 4, then pulled into a share of the lead with an approach that caught the lip at No. 8 for a tap-in birdie.

He played the final 20 holes of the Tour Championship without a bogey.

Woods, meanwhile, when a stretch of 24 holes without a one-putt birdie until he knocked one in from 35 feet on the 16th.

So who was the big winner?

"Let me see if I get this straight," Mickelson said. "I shot 65 and he shot (70), and he gets a check for $10 million ... no, I'm just kidding. I didn't play well in the first three events to give myself a chance."

Sean O'Hair, who was two shots behind throughout the back nine with an outside chance of winning, gave the nod to Woods.

"I'd prefer the 10 million bucks in my pocket," O'Hair said. "Yeah, I think Tiger wins today."

Woods only cared about the Tour Championship, believing the FedEx Cup would take care of itself. When he captured the cup two years ago under a different points system, he won the final two events.

Despite a one-shot lead through 36 holes at East Lake, Woods struggled on the greens Saturday and with the rest of his game in the final round. Except for his two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th, he had only four birdie putts inside 20 feet and missed them all.

"Phil played well. He did the things he needed to do this week," Woods said. "Unfortunately, I didn't putt well and consequently, I didn't push him. Phil ran off and got away from us."

As for the top two players each leaving East Lake with a trophy?

"It's certainly different," Woods said.