Phil Mick­el­son earns fifth vic­tory at Peb­ble Beach.

The Washington Post - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

peb­ble beach, calif. — Phil Mick­el­son is clos­ing in on three decades on the PGA Tour and a half-cen­tury on Earth, and he still feels his best golf is good enough.

He was at his best at Peb­ble Beach, and no one had a chance.

A Mon­day fin­ish brought on by rain and a rare hail­storm was only a mi­nor in­con­ve­nience for the 48-year-old. Mick­el­son played his last two holes just as well as the pre­vi­ous 16 and pol­ished off his bo­gey-free fi­nal round with one last birdie for a 7-un­der-par 65 and a three-shot vic­tory over Paul Casey at the Peb­ble Beach Pro-Am.

Mick­el­son won at Peb­ble Beach for the fifth time, match­ing the record set by Mark O’Meara. He has gone 28 years be­tween his first PGA Tour vic­tory and his 44th, and he joined Tiger Woods as the only play­ers to sur­pass $90 mil­lion in ca­reer earn­ings.

“It’s a lot more work and ef­fort to play at this level,” Mick­el­son said. “And I have be­lieved for some time that if I play at my best, it will be good enough to win tour­na­ments. The chal­lenge is get­ting my­self to play my best. It’s a lot more work off the course, it’s more time in the gym, it’s more time eat­ing, it’s more time fo­cus­ing, it’s all these things that go into it. And so it’s grat­i­fy­ing to see the re­sults and to fin­ish it off the way I did.”

Mak­ing it even more spe­cial is Peb­ble Beach, where he made his pro de­but at the U.S. Open in 1992, and where he won the first of his five ti­tles in an­other Mon­day fin­ish in 1998 — that one in Au­gust be­cause of rain. It’s where his grand­fa­ther, Al San­tos, was among the first cad­dies when the course opened in 1919, and Mick­el­son still uses as a marker the 1900 sil­ver dol­lar his grand­fa­ther kept in his pocket to re­mind him­self that he was not poor.

There was plenty of sun­light for the Mon­day morn­ing fin­ish, but no drama.

Mick­el­son, who started the fi­nal round three shots be­hind, never came close to a bo­gey and built a three-shot lead through 16 holes on Sun­day night when it was too dark to fin­ish, no mat­ter how hard he lob­bied to keep go­ing.

The fi­nal round Sun­day had been de­layed at the start by one hour be­cause of rain, and then sun­shine quickly gave way to hail that cov­ered the greens in a sheet of white and led to a two-hour de­lay.

Mick­el­son said he could “see just fine” even af­ter sun­set, know­ing dark­ness falls quickly on the Mon­terey Penin­sula. Casey could barely see the three feet of grass be­tween his ball and the cup on the 16th hole and said there was no way to com­plete two holes in six min­utes. Mick­el­son was on the 17th tee, shak­ing his head, when he heard the siren to stop play.

On Mon­day morn­ing, he had a change of heart and said he thanked Casey for stand­ing his ground.

“Paul made the tough call, but it was the right de­ci­sion in that he pro­tected him­self and my­self for the com­pe­ti­tion,” Mick­el­son said. “I just get in my own lit­tle bub­ble, and I don’t see the big pic­ture.” It worked out well in the end. Mick­el­son fin­ished at 19-un­der 268. Casey needed Mick­el­son to com­mit a big blun­der on the two clos­ing holes, and there was lit­tle chance of that. Casey at least birdied the 18th for a 71 to fin­ish alone in sec­ond, the dif­fer­ence of $152,000.

He also won the pro-am with Don Colleran, the chief sales of­fi­cer for FedEx.

But the fi­nal day, and all week, was about the age­less Mick­el­son.

This was the fourth time Casey had a 54-hole lead of at least two shots on the PGA Tour and failed to win. The other three times he was 2-over or worse in the fi­nal round. This time, he closed with a 71 and lost to Mick­el­son’s 65, which matched the low score of the fi­nal round.

“A phe­nom­e­nal round of golf,” Casey said.

Mick­el­son’s long­est putt for par was four feet. He played the fi­nal 26 holes in cold, damp and windy weather with­out a bo­gey.

How it bodes for the rest of the year — par­tic­u­larly in June, when the U.S. Open re­turns to Peb­ble Beach — was of lit­tle con­cern to Mick­el­son. The U.S. Open re­mains the fi­nal piece of the ca­reer Grand Slam for Mick­el­son, who holds the record with six run­nerup fin­ishes.

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