Going head-to-head with Woods for the first time in 18 months, Mickelson buried the world's No. 1 player on the front nine and held him off down the stretch Monday to close with a 5-under 66 and win the Deutsche Bank Championship by two shots.
It was the first victory for Mickelson since The Players Championship in May, when he looked ready to make another run at Woods. Then came a wrist injury that cost him his summer, and only recently has Mickelson been able to swing without flinching.
The pain on this Labor Day belonged to Woods.
He couldn't make a putt on the front nine, and couldn't make enough when he was trying to make up ground. Woods had four putts for eagle on the TPC Boston, and picked up only three shots. He wound up with a 67 - despite taking 32 putts - and tied for second with Arron Oberholser (69) and Brett Wetterich (70), who were afterthoughts while playing in the final group.
The buzz outside Beantown was clearly on the two biggest names in golf, and Mickelson relished this victory.
"For 10 years I've struggled against Tiger,'' Mickelson said. "This sure feels great to go head-to-head ... and over the last five or six holes when he's making a run, it was fun to match him with birdies.''
Mickelson finished at 16-under 268 and earned $1.26 million, moving him atop the standings in the PGA Tour Playoffs.
But after dispatching of Woods, Mickelson picked his next battle with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. He said he might not play next week outside Chicago at the BMW Championship, saying he owed it to the tour but that Finchem had not fulfilled some requests that Mickelson has made. He did not elaborate.
If Mickelson were to play at Cog Hill, he again would be paired with Woods the first two days. That might be incentive enough the way he handled Woods at the TPC Boston, staying ahead of him the first two rounds and playing his best when it mattered.
Mickelson, who moved back to No. 2 in the world with his 32nd career victory, took only 23 putts in the final round and built a five-shot lead at the turn. Woods had ample opportunity to close the gap, especially when Mickelson took double bogey on the 12th hole, but he never got closer than two shots.
Mickelson matched his birdie on the 16th to stay two ahead, Woods missed from 10 feet on the 17th, and Lefty effectively locked up the victory with his chip from behind the 18th green to 4 feet for his final birdie.
"Unfortunately, I just didn't make enough putts to really push him,'' Woods said.
Wetterich started the final round with a one-shot lead and didn't make a birdie until the 16th hole. His birdie on the last hole gave him enough points to move up 29 spots to No. 22, giving him an excellent shot at making the Tour Championship.