Monday, April 14, 2003

Mickelson plays well, but he's third again



By Eddie Pells
The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Phil Mickelson finally came through on a Sunday at the Masters. Didn't matter, though.

Two other players were even better, and Mickelson earned a new title. With left-hander Mike Weir's victory, Mickelson is now, undisputedly, the Best Lefty to Never Win a Major.

"You can't look at it in terms of wins and losses," Mickelson said after shooting 4-under 68. "I felt I did what I wanted to do."

For the third straight year, he finished third at Augusta, this time behind Weir and Len Mattiace, and he fell to 0-for-43 in the majors.

Still, Lefty walked away feeling he had nothing to be ashamed of after failing to distinguish himself in the final round the last two years. This was his best final round in 11 appearances at Augusta.

"If I judge success on whether I won or not, I'm putting a variable on other guys, and I can't control what they do," he insisted. "Len played very well. Mike played very well. I made putts and hit the ball well, so I'm happy about that."

This had the makings of a Mickelson masterpiece early.

He came into the round trailing by five. On No. 2, he sliced his drive into the creek, way left of the fairway. He took a drop, still in the trees, and hit a 3-wood out to the front of the green.

He holed a 90-foot birdie putt, looked up to the sky and let out a big sigh, smiling the whole time.

"I think it was one of the best up-and-downs of my career," he said.

He got around the front in 35, and stayed just three strokes off the lead. Weir and Mattiace kept pulling away, however, and Mickelson's last chance to make it really close was lost on a most uncharacteristic shot.

After hitting to the green on the par-5 15th in two, Mickelson left the eagle putt a stunning 7 feet short, a nervous play by a guy known for letting it all hang out.

He settled for birdie to get to 4 under, but it was too late by then.

As usual after coming up short at these majors, Mickelson saw the sunny side.

He beat Tiger Woods.

Mickelson played well despite a layoff in which he spent time at home waiting for his wife to give birth to their son.

He broke 70 for the first time in the final round at the Masters and walked away smiling, ready to take a few weeks off to be with his family.

"I'm pleased with a 68," he said. "And I'm not going to worry if it wasn't enough."




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REDS
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Pitching goes from bad to worse
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OTHER BASEBALL
NL: Maddux gets first win
AL: Royals' winning streak finally snapped
Louisville 8, Durham 2
Rangers' Greene gets good news from war front

67th MASTERS
Weir gathers nerves, jacket
Daugherty: Mattiace puts on his happy face
"Stick with your game, kid" - and he did
Two bad holes equal Maggert meltdown
Amateur Barnes makes '15 minutes' last 72 holes
Pars and putts add up to green jacket
Mickelson plays well, but he's third again
Woods never a threat
Masters notebook

PREP SPORTS
South swept in Ohio all-star games
Prep polls and leaders
Prep schedule

HORSE RACING
Ganns undeterred by Empire Maker hype
Empire rules Derby field

HOCKEY
Dvorak lifts Oilers past Dallas 3-2
Gophers eyeing hockey three-peat

NBA
Wallace hits trey to down Lakers
No perfect career ending for Jordan

AUTO RACING
Gordon bumps past Labonte to win
Momentum, luck help Tracy win again

PLAN YOUR DAY
Monday's sports on TV, radio