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Mickelson halts Tiger's streak

By Bernie WilsonAssociated Press Published: February 14, 2000 12:00 AM

SAN DIEGO _ After denying Tiger Woods a seventh straight PGA Tour victory, Phil Mickelson offered neither apologies nor condolences.

Mickelson had just survived a round in which he had two double bogeys in five holes on a course he'd grown up playing, and wanted only to savor his Buick Invitational victory.

"I wasn't out to end his streak," said Mickelson, who did just that on Sunday in dramatically stopping the tour's longest run in 52 years. "I don't want to be the bad guy here. I just wanted to win the tournament.

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"To go against the best player in the world, and to come out on top, means a lot to me."

Mickelson showed grit after his two big stumbles to beat Woods and Japan's Shigeki Maruyama by four strokes on the Torrey Pines South Course. It was the first win in 18 months for Mickelson, who was runnerup at the NEC Invitational, where Woods' streak began.

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Heck, he even pumped his fist, just like Woods does, after sinking a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 14, his second straight birdie to recover from the double bogeys that wiped the smile from his face.

So Byron Nelson's record run of 11 straight victories is safe, for the time being.

Can Woods or anyone else win six straight again?

"It just all depends if someone gets hot like I did; someone plays well and give themselves enough opportunities," Woods said. "Either you are going to win them outright yourself or you might need a little help, but I think it can be done again."

After lurking six shots off the lead after each of the first three rounds, Woods made another exciting run.

He trailed Mickelson by seven strokes with 12 to go _ nothing compared to his rally last Monday at Pebble Beach, when he was down seven with seven holes left.

He didn't quite leave himself enough chances. But he wasn't entirely unhappy with his day.

"I didn't back off. I didn't dog it out there," Woods said. "I just hung in there. For some reason, I didn't hit the ball as crisp today as I needed to."

Mickelson wasn't crisp the whole way, either, which helped let Woods back in it.

On the par-4 No. 7, Mickelson hit a wild approach that landed just far enough in front of a tree to restrict his swing. Double bogey. On the 11th, a par-3, he missed the green and chunked his first chip so badly it stayed in the rough.

So, after a 5-foot birdie on 13, Woods had a share of the lead at 15-under.

But Mickelson, playing in the group behind Woods, stepped up and showed he wasn't collapsing. His drive on the 13th was blocked to the left, in the rough and under a eucalyptus tree, leaving him no chance to reach the green in two.

"I knew I needed to make 4," he said. "I just didn't know how."

With 116 yards to the pin, he hit a terrific 9-iron that spun back to 2 feet for birdie.

"After that, I was back in control of my game," he said.

And, he noted, he never did surrender his lead.

That's because Woods, who felt he was in it until his flop shot for eagle missed on 18, effectively knocked himself out with bogeys on the par-4 14th and par-3 16th.

Woods' approach shot on 14 was 25 feet right of his target and he three-putted for his first bogey in 44 holes.

He bogeyed the 16th hole from the bunker, and with a smile seemed to sense the streak was over.

"At least I made it interesting for Phil," Woods said.

"It's disappointing I didn't win. 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."

Mickelson closed with a 70 and finished at 18-under 270 for the 14th victory of his career, worth a career-high $540,000.

Woods hit only 10 greens in regulation and missed eight fairways, but he still shot a 68.

Maruyama had a 72 in his quest to become the first Japanese player since Isao Aoki in 1983 to win on the PGA Tour.

Mickelson saluted Woods' streak.

"The way Tiger has played the last six events, and prior to that, has generated a lot of interest for the game of golf," Mickelson said. "There are galleries that were so large this week, they didn't expect it."

True, the gallery swelled to 35,000, most wanting to witness history.

"Now, sure I wanted to beat him, and I'm not going to roll over and let his streak continue," Mickelson said. "If it did, if he beat me on his own play, well, then there's not much I can do about it. But I certainly wasn't going to just hand it to him, even though it looked like I was."

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