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Howell clips Mickelson to win Nissan in playoff

first_imgPACIFIC PALISADES – Charles Howell III now has something his good friend Tiger Woods doesn’t: a win at Riviera Country Club. Phil Mickelson had the Nissan Open under control but stumbled down the stretch Sunday and bogeyed the 18thhole, while Howell, who started the day three shots back, snuck his way up the leaderboard. Howell has been on a tear this season. In five events, he has already won $2 million and leads the money list and FedExCup points list. Howell has said his main priority during the early part of the season is qualifying for the Masters, which is played in his hometown of Augusta, Ga. This victory virtually assures him a spot in the season’s first major. Howell made seven birdies and one bogey Sunday, making his big move on the back nine as he birdied the 14th, 16th and 17th holes, twoof which are par-3s. He birdied the 14th by making a 17-foot putt and the 16th with a 33-footer. He was on the green in two on No. 17 and two-putted from 49 feet for birdie. He wasn’t spectacular on the playoff holes, but neither was Mickelson. They both parred the 18th hole, which was the first playoff hole. Howell had to make a 6-footer for par after Mickelson parred the hole. They continued to the 10th hole, where Howell lost a playoff to Mike Weir at the Nissan in 2003 by missing a 6-foot putt. Howell said he thought about that debacle just before the playoff started. He hit his tee shot left and onto a cart path behind the trees. He opted to hit instead of taking a drop, and his ball just clipped the tree branches and advanced just 16 yards. He chipped to within two feet and made the putt. Asked about the hole, Howell said: “We have a love-hate relationship.” Then On to the par-3 14th, where Mickelson and Howell both came up short of the green on their tee shot on the par-3. Mickelson, who was 52feet away short, used his putter on the fringe, and it hopped up on the edge and was 10 feet short, but he missed the putt. Howell chipped to within threefeet and sank the putt to save par. Howell said he wasn’t preoccupied with all the near-misses over the past few years. “If you look at the state of where my golf game was in the middle of last summer, I would have cut my arm off for a second-place finish,” Howell said. “They were looking pretty darn good. No, I kept looking at it as I’m getting closer. I’m getting closer. “The second at 84 Lumber (Classic) toward the end of last year was really important for me to get an affirmation that I’m starting to get back. And then to start this year off this way, I knew I was close.” Howell can go back to Orlando, Fla., and show off his trophy to Woods, who is 0 for 9 as a pro at the Nissan. Woods skipped the tournament for just the second time since he turned pro. Howell, who’s been to Woods’ home and sat and stared at his majors collection of major trophies, said he won’t do any trash talking. “I guess he doesn’t have a Nissan Open trophy, but he’s got every (other) one on me,” Howell said. “I can’t give him any (grief), are you kidding me?” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Howell trailed Mickelson by fourshots after 12 holes, but his unusually steady putter, coupled with Mickelson’s uncharacteristically shaky short game, was enough to force a playoff. Howell parred the third playoff hole – making a 3-foot putt after Mickelson missed from 10 feet – to give him just his second PGA Tour victory. Howell, 27, shot a final-round 6-under 65 on what he said is his second-favorite golf course and won $936,000. Mickelson shot a 3-under 68. center_img “To finally win here, I’m speechless,” Howell said. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world right now.” Howell had seemed like the unluckiest guy on the tour for a while. He had ninesecond-place finishes since his last – and only – victory, the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill in 2002. He finished second to Woods in the Buick Invitational last month and in a tie for second at the Sony Open to start the season. When Howell’s putt fell in the cup on the final playoff hole, the par-3 14th, he didn’t jump on a car or pump his fists. He simply looked up and closed his eyes. The look had relief written all over it. “I said a prayer before I hit the putt,” Howell said. “You know, I said, `It’s time, let’s go in.”‘ last_img