SHANGHAI, China (AP) — Phil Mickelson glanced at the gleaming trophy on his left, rolled his eyes and broke into a sheepish grin.
“I cannot believe I’m here as the champion right now,” he said.
Lefty overcame six penalty strokes in the final round, blew a three-shot lead with seven to play, and still won Sunday’s HSBC Champions tournament on the second hole of a three-way playoff with Englishmen Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood.
The victory in Asia’s richest tournament earned Mickelson $833,000. It was his fourth victory this season, and it also gave him a tournament title that Tiger Woods has failed twice to win.
Fisher, ranked No. 141, had a one-stroke lead going to the 72nd hole. It seemed Mickelson would need several clutch shots to at least force a playoff. Instead, he dumped his long approach into water off the right edge of the green.
“I never thought after hitting in the water I had a chance,” said Mickelson, whose win in China was only his second outside the United States, and first since he won in France 14 years ago.
The only player who made more blunders than Mickelson was Fisher, particularly at the final hole of regulation.
“I can’t remember a final hole like this,” said Mickelson, who made a 4-foot birdie putt at the second playoff hole to eliminate both Englishmen.
Fisher had already played four shots when Mickelson holed out. Westwood dumped two in the water and was out of it when Mickelson dropped the winning putt.
“It was the most unusual back nine I’ve even been a part of,” Mickelson added.
The scene for the confused, whirlwind finish began shaping up with Mickelson leading Fisher by three shots after 11. He dropped four shots on 12, 13 and 15. On 15, his bogey and Fisher’s 3-foot birdie gave the Englishman a two-stroke lead with three holes to play.
“I had a huge lead early in the round, but hit some horrible shots,” Mickelson said. “It was a difficult day. But I kept fighting and it’s a funny game, golf. You just never know what’s going to happen.”
Mickelson got one back with a birdie at 16. At 18, both Fisher and Mickelson hit the fairway at the 538-yard hole. Fisher went first with his second shot, and elected to try reaching the green in two instead of playing safe and laying up.
He avoided water on the right but landed in thick Bermuda rough just off the green. On his second, Mickelson went for it, too, and found water.
Only needing to get down in three for a par and the win, Fisher chipped his third onto the sloping green. It bounced off and into lateral water. He took a penalty drop and needed a chip and two putts for a double bogey to finish on a 2-over 74, 10 under for the tournament.
That left Mickelson with a chance to win in regulation. His 10-foot putt for par, which would have left him alone at 11 under, slipped by. He finished with a 76, also 10 under.
Westwood, who was nine behind when the day began, ran in six birdies on the back nine, and missed two other opportunities on 17 and 18. He finished with a 67 and was in the clubhouse when he was called back for the playoff.
On the first playoff hole, Fisher missed an 8-foot birdie attempt at 18 that would have won the tournament at the swanky Sheshan Golf Club just outside Shanghai. Mickelson finally put it away on the second hole.
“I guess I’m not really looking back on this round and remembering very many of the shots,” Mickelson said. “I’m just thankful that I won. I feel like I have a head start on ’08.”