20 years later, Mickelson a winner at Riviera

Some clutch putts on the back nine helped Mickelson to another West Coast win.

>LOS ANGELES (AP) – It has been 20 years since Phil Mickelson first stepped inside the ropes at Riviera, a 17-year-old amateur in awe of the fabled course off Sunset Boulevard, inspired by names like Hogan, Snead and Nelson that were on the trophy.

Lefty finally joined them on Sunday, adding to his impressive collection of PGA Tour titles on the Left Coast.

Mickelson made two clutch putts on the back nine, seized control when Jeff Quinney self-destructed with the putter, and took a relaxing walk up the 18th fairway with a victory he felt was a long time coming.

He closed with a 1-under 70 for a two-shot victory, the 33rd of his career, with 16 of those in California and Arizona.

“The fact I haven’t won this and it has taken me so long to win makes it that much more special,” Mickelson said.

A year ago, Lefty was poised to win in LA until he bogeyed the 18th hole and lost in a playoff against Charles Howell III. This time, he was steady down the stretch as Quinney’s putter changed from a magic wand to a ball-and-chain.

He made four straight putts outside 10 feet, only to make three straight bogeys starting on the 13th hole. The first two came from missing consecutive par putts from 7 feet that allowed Mickelson a cushion over the closing holes.

“I just put a little too much pressure on the putter on the back nine,” said Quinney, who made a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that only changed the final score. He closed with a 71.

British Open champion Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald each shot 68 and tied for third, although this was a two-man race from the start, and a one-man celebration over the final two holes.

Mickelson finished at 12-under 272 and earned $1,116,000.

He might never catch Tiger Woods in the world ranking, PGA Tour victories or in the majors, but for now he has done something the world’s No. 1 player hasn’t – win at Riviera.

Jack Nicklaus never won here, either.

Riviera was Woods’ first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old. He has not played the last two years.

Mickelson made his PGA Tour debut at Torrey Pines at age 17, and then showed up a week later at Riviera. As much as the course impressed him, it also confounded him over the years, and he played there sparingly until returning with a renewed commitment last year.

“I didn’t understand the nuances of this golf course, where you can and can’t hit it,” he said. “And learning those nuances and how to hit the shots into some of these greens has helped me over the years. Last year was when I started to put it together, and I’m fortunate to break through this year.”