After some early struggles, Phil Mickelson rallied to defend his title at Riviera.
Darren Carroll/SI
By Alan Shipnuck
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hot

1. Match Play Championship. It's already one of the best events on the schedule, and now with Tiger's return it's the media event of the 21st century. Has there ever been a Wednesday on Tour as anticipated as this one?

2. Phil. Love him or hate him, he's never boring. Two spectacular rounds on venerable Riviera and then a white-knuckle finish were vintage Mickelson. Bottom line: he was two-down with three to play and went birdie-birdie-hero par for the victory. Can't wait to see what kind of mojo he has at the Match Play.

3. Kids. Danny Lee, the brash 18-year-old U.S. Amateur champ, won a legit pro event in Australia, joining Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa as intriguing teens tearing it up on the world stage. Camillo and AK are so 2008.

4. Riviera. Is there a more pure golf course on Tour? Not that I've seen.

5. Boom Boom. Yes, he's got the yips, but at 49 there is still so much poetry in Fred Couples's long game. That 295-yard driver off the deck to reach the 17th green on Sunday was as sweet as it gets.

Not

1. Steve Stricker. After his self-immolation at the Hope, he needed an airtight finish in L.A. but instead made a sloppy bogey at 18, opening the door for Mickelson. On the bright side, deer hunting season in Wisconsin is only nine months away.

2. Phil. Yes, he survived, but he hit more squirrely shots on Sunday than any legit player ever should. And the jayvee tournament schedule just concluded now that you-know-who is back.

3. Steve Williams. Now that Tiger is returning, his lovable caddie's sabbatical is over, too. Oh joy.

4. Michael Campbell. The flaky former U.S. Open champ tore up his shoulder in November retrieving his luggage at the airport, and the injury has become so nettlesome that he withdrew from the upcoming New Zealand PGA Championship. Oh, and the poor schlump turned 40 this week. You'll know he's hit rock-bottom when he starts calling John Daly for pep talks.

5. TA3. Golf's coolest cat was in the hunt at the Riv until a sporty five-chip on Saturday. Armour's boldest stroke actually came after he finally got the ball to stay on the 8th green, when he buried his wedge in the turf up to the hosel. I wonder if the fine is tax-deductible?

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