Last-gasp PGA win for Mickelson

A dramatic last-hole birdie saw Phil Mickelson capture his second major title when he won the storm-delayed 87th PGA Championship on Monday.

The 35-year-old American carded a closing two-over 72 to finish on four-under 276 for the year’s final major tournament, one shot clear of Australia’s Steve Elkington and Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn at Baltusrol Golf Club.

Another shot back were world number one Tiger Woods, who finished his final round on Sunday before a thunderstorm forced organisers to cancel play for the rest of the day, and fellow American Davis Love.

It was a nerve-wracking last hole for Mickelson, who knew he needed a birdie to win but nearly blew it when he hit his second shot into the deep rough guarding the par-five 18th.

But Mickelson, needing to get up and down for the victory, kept his nerve and blasted the ball out. The 2004 Masters champion gave a victory wave as he watched it roll up to only three feet from the pin.

The New Jersey crowd roared their approval, the left-hander having been adopted by New York-area fans.

“This has been an absolutely amazing week. It has been so much fun,” said Mickelson.

“When I hit the second shot, I knew I needed birdie to win.
I have struggled out of the rough this week but I remembered a few of the shots I hit as a kid in my backyard,” he explained.

Walking up the 18th fairway, Mickelson tapped a plaque in the middle of the fairway for luck, a plaque that celebrates the one-iron shot hit by Jack Nicklaus when he won the United States Open here in 1980. It paid off.

For Elkington, Bjorn and Love it was a question of what might have been. All three had their chances to take the title when Mickelson, who began the day with a one-shot lead and five holes to go, bogeyed the par-three 16th.

It put Mickelson level with Elkington, who won the PGA Championship 10 years ago, and when Bjorn birdied the 650-yard par-five 17th, all three were tied for the lead.

It all came down to the final hole as Mickelson reached the 18th tee still three-under.

Elkington killed his chances when his tee shot hit the trees and he had to lay up short of the green. Although he hit his third to within eight feet, the ball slipped past and all he could do was watch the television in the locker room and see what Mickelson would do.

“There’s a lot to be said for being the last guy out there. Thomas and I had a chance of birdie on the last but we didn’t take it,” said Elkington.

Bjorn’s downfall came with his second shot to the 18th green. He hit it wide left into the bunker protecting the left side.

He blasted it out but his long birdie putt slipped agonisingly past.

The Dane, like Elkington, could only look on and see what Mickelson, in the final pairing with Love, would do.

“The best guy won,” said Bjorn. “I will take a lot of positives out of this week.”—Sapa-AFP

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