NORTON, Mass. (AP) — As soon as Phil Mickelson shrugged off Tiger Woods and the rest of the field at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he decided to take on golf’s powers-that-be.
Complaining that the PGA Tour Playoffs are too much of a commitment for players already tired from a long season, Mickelson threatened to skip next week’s BMW Championship.
“My frustration from this past year came from asking for a couple of things in the FedEx Cup that weren’t done, and not feeling all that bad now if I happen to miss,” he said Monday. “So I’m not really sure how it’s going to play out.”
Mickelson would not elaborate on his complaints, but he did say that with his kids starting school on Wednesday he was torn between spending time with his family and fighting for points in Chicago. He has brought up his issues with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, to no avail.
“It’s just that I’m conflicted,” Mickelson said, noting that it wasn’t just the playoffs but a hectic season overall. “I certainly feel the obligation to support the FedEx Cup, to support the PGA Tour, and support the game of golf. And I also want to have a balance in my life, and my family has sacrificed a lot this year because it’s been a very difficult schedule.”
Mickelson shot 5-under-par 66 on Monday in the final round of the Deutsche Bank to finish two strokes ahead of Woods, Brett Wetterich and Arron Oberholser. The victory was worth $1.26 million and 9,000 points in the playoffs, moving him to the top of the standings.
Wetterich shot 70, making a birdie on the final hole to earn enough points to move up 29 spots in the standings to No. 22 and giving him an excellent shot at making the Tour Championship.
Oberholser was within one shot of Mickelson most of the back nine, but he needed an eagle on the final hole to force a playoff. Instead, he missed a 10-foot birdie putt when the tournament was sealed and improved to No. 29 in the standings; had he made the birdie putt, he would have gone to No. 20 and clinched a spot at East Lake for the Tour Championship.
John Mallinger and Bo Van Pelt moved into the top 70 to advance to the third round next week in Chicago.
Even if Mickelson does skip the next event, he long ago locked up a spot in the Tour Championship.
But that would make it three consecutive weeks that a top 5 player in the world rankings has sat out one of the playoff events. Tiger Woods sat out Week 1, and Ernie Els sat out the Deutsche Bank to be with his kids as they started school.
Even missing Els, the TPC was not lacking in star power.
After playing in a threesome with Vijay Singh for the first two rounds, Mickelson and Woods paired up again in Monday’s final round. Thousands of fans stood six-deep behind the greens and watched Mickelson move to a five-stroke lead before Woods made a move.
“For 10 years I’ve struggled against Tiger,” Mickelson said. “The way I was able to answer with a couple birdies when Tiger was making his charge – it felt pretty good. As we all know, he finishes better than anybody else. He certainly tried to do that today. I was able to hold him off.”
It was Mickelson’s first victory since The Players Championship in May. Then he injured his left wrist that cost him his summer, and only recently has Mickelson been able to swing without flinching.
But Woods was the one who was struggling this week.
He missed 11 putts from inside 10 feet over the weekend – four of them from inside 7 feet. He three-putted three times. In the final round, he made just one putt from outside of 13 feet.
“It’s very frustrating,” Woods said. “That many three-putts, and I’m still right there, which means I’m hitting the ball well. I just need to clean up my greens for next week.”
Woods missed makable putts on three straight holes, including a 15-footer on No. 12 after Mickelson hit his second shot into a hazard and wound up with a double bogey.
“He made a mistake there,” Woods said. “I felt that I should have – if I could have made that putt, I could have gotten a big chunk back.”
Trailing by two strokes, Wood hit his tee shot on the 161-yard, par-3 16th to the back of the green and rolled it just 10 feet from the pin. But then Mickelson went straight at the flag, and left just 6 feet for birdie.
Woods sank his putt to get within one stroke – but just for a matter of seconds. Mickelson also made birdie to move to 15 under and restore the two-stroke lead.
“To be able to stand up on 16 after he knocked it close and follow it with a birdie of my own, knock it inside of him and finish with a couple birdies of my own, it feels terrific,” said Mickelson, who improved to 3-2-1 against Woods in heads-up, final-round play.
“Now the next step is to try to hopefully go head-to-head in a major. We don’t get paired very often in majors, and hopefully next year we’ll have a chance to do that.”
Woods gave himself a chance for an eagle on No. 18 from 33 feet. But Mickelson ended it when, after going over the green with his second shot, he chipped from out of a downhill lie to within 5 feet – an easy birdie.
For Lefty, it was the cap to a fun week in New England – his first trip to the Boston area since he celebrated a stunning U.S. victory in the Ryder Cup at Brookline.
This time, Mickelson spent some time in Kennebunkport, Maine, for some golf and fishing with former President Bush. After Saturday’s round, Mickelson headed over to Fenway Park and saw Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz throw a no-hitter.
“It made for a very special, memorable week,” Mickelson said. “I’m just so excited with the way it finished.”