Mickelson completes dominant victory


DULUTH, Ga. – Phil Mickelson completed his dominant, wire-to-wire BellSouth Classic victory Sunday with a score worthy of being remembered as more than just a Masters momentum-builder.

Mickelson’s final-round 65 gave him a 28-under 260 total, only one stroke away from the best 72-hole total for a par-72 course in PGA Tour history.

Mickelson capped his 65 with an eagle putt on 18, his second eagle of the day.

Jose Maria Olazabal and Zach Johnson finished 13 strokes behind in second at 15-under 273. Olazabal, who had a 69 Sunday, also tied for second in the BellSouth last year, losing in a five-man playoff won by Mickelson.

Johnson had a 70 Sunday.

Mickelson made the most of his last chance to use the BellSouth Classic as a warmup for the Masters. He matched the course record with an opening 63 Thursday and was 5 under or better every day while winning his second straight BellSouth title.

The left-hander’s first win of the year made him the tournament’s first three-time champion. He also won the BellSouth 2000.

Mickelson said playing the TPC at Sugarloaf helped prepare him for his 2004 Masters win – his first victory in a major. Boosted by his best 72-hole score, he will rank as one of the favorites in Augusta this week.

J.J. Henry and Retief Goosen tied for fourth at 14-under 274. Goosen moved up with a 66 Sunday. Jonathan Byrd bogeyed three straight holes on the back 9 for a 73 to finish sixth at 12 under.

A stunning shot, and a playoff win for Webb

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Karrie Webb’s slow, steady climb to her Hall of Fame standards hit warp speed with one magical shot Sunday that sent her to a stunning playoff victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Webb holed a pitching wedge from 116 yards for eagle on the 18th hole to close with a 7-under 65, then made a 7-foot birdie putt on the same hole in the playoff to beat Lorena Ochoa and capture her seventh career major. As exhilarating as it was for Webb, it was devastating for those she beat.

Ochoa collapsed on the back nine, only to recover with a 5-wood into 6 feet for eagle on the par-5 18th with the island green. Her 15-foot birdie putt in the playoff never had a chance.

Michelle Wie, the 16-year-old phenom from Hawaii, was 25 feet away from winning until her chip ran 10 feet by, and her birdie putt to join the playoff caught the left lip.

Natalie Gulbis birdied three of five holes down the stretch, only to see her 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole turn away.

That left Webb an unlikely winner in a dramatic conclusion to the first LPGA Tour major of the year.

It was her first victory since 2004, and her first major since she won the 2002 Women’s British Open at Turnberry. She has been retooling her swing, needing to put a few good holes together, then perhaps a few good rounds.

What sent her to the top was one of the greatest shots struck in a major championship.

She was tied for the lead at 7 under, not knowing that Wie had just stuffed a wedge inside a foot on the 16th hole. Webb had 116 yards to the hole, and her shot looked good from the moment in left her club.

“Yeessss!” she screamed, running and leaping into the arms of her caddie, Mike Paterson. Then, Webb punched the air with a roundhouse fist pump, patting her chest to steady her emotions.

But the Aussie’s work was not through.

In the playoff, she boldly went after the island green with a fairway metal, the ball going through the green. She hit a flop that rolled 7 feet past the cup, and thrust her arms in the air when she made the putt.

AP-ES-04-02-06 1836EDT