Mickelson wins in play-off

Phil Mickelson made a 20-foot birdie putt on the fourth play-off hole on Monday to win the BellSouth Classic over Rich Beem and give the defending US Masters champion momentum heading to Augusta.

Mickelson, Jose Maria Olazabal, Beem, Jobe Brandt and Arjun Atwal tied at eight-under 208 after the final round in the rain-shortened 54-hole tournament to set up the five-man play-off.

Brandt and Arjun were eliminated on the first play-off hole and Olazabal was out after the third play-off hole.

“There were probably six to 10 people who could have won this tournament. I don’t know how I dodged the bullet,” said Mickelson. “I’m looking forward to the Masters.”

Mickelson won it on the par-17, 455-yard 17th hole when he hit his drive in the fairway and put his second shot 20 feet from the hole before sinking the putt.

Beem, who hasn’t won since the US PGA Championship in 2002, hit into a fairway bunker on the final play-off hole.
His second shot was about 20 yards short of the green, where he pitched to about two feet, setting up a par putt that wasn’t needed.

Olazabal, the two-time Masters champion, had a chance to win on the par-five, 576-yard 18th in regulation to avoid a play-off, but missed a five-foot birdie putt and settled for par and 69.

He also had a second chance to win on the first play-off hole, missing another five-foot birdie putt on number 18. He was eliminated on the third play-off hole when he hit two balls in the water on 18.

“I had a chance to win it [in regulation] and didn’t. [I] had a second chance and missed it,” said Olazabal, who also heads to the Masters with his game in pretty good shape.

Mickelson (69), Beem (68), Brandt (67) and Atwal (64), a native of India and a regular on the Asian tour for eight years, each birdied their last hole to earn a play-off berth along with Olazabal.

Mickelson and Beem had pars on the first play-off hole to advance to the second play-off hole along with Olazabal. Brandt and Atwal each hit into the water that guarded the green on 18, shot over par and were eliminated.

Olazabel, Mickelson and Beem each parred the second play-off hole, the 455-yard par-four, to send it back to 18 for the third play-off hole.

Mickelson and Beem advanced to the fourth play-off hole when each had tap-in birdies on number 18.

With the weather sunny and warm, the scores came down on Monday after the first two rounds were washed out by rain on Thursday and Friday and delayed 99 minutes on Saturday at the TPC at Sugar Loaf.

Scott McCarron, who led by a stroke entering the final round and the 1997 and 2001 winner in Georgia, shot a 76 and was well back at 214.

Defending champion Zach Johnson had a 72 and was at 213.

Mickelson, the tour’s leading money-winner, earned $900 000 of the $5-million purse.—Sapa-AP

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