- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009

From combined dispatches

LOS ANGELES | On the verge of blowing the biggest lead of his career, Phil Mickelson turned his fortunes around in the final hour at Riviera with back-to-back birdies that carried him to a one-shot victory Sunday in the Northern Trust Open.

Mickelson went from a four-shot lead at the start of the final round to a two-shot deficit with three holes to play. But he hit 9-iron to five feet for birdie on the 16th, holed a 6-foot birdie on the 17th and saved par with a 6-foot putt on the final hole.

He closed with a 1-over 72 to become only the fourth player to win in consecutive years at Riviera.

Steve Stricker closed with a 67 and was on his way to the range to get ready for a playoff when he saw Mickelson leave himself a tough par putt on the final hole and stopped when he heard the cheer.

He had his chances. Stricker missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th that would have given him a three-shot lead at the time, then missed a 12-footer for par on the 18th.

But the real heartache belonged to Fred Couples.

A two-time winner at Riviera, his favorite golf course west of Augusta National, the 49-year-old had a chance for one last victory in his final full season on the PGA Tour. Couples was one shot behind when he fanned his approach to the 18th green and watched in disgust as it struck a eucalyptus tree. He finished with a bogey for a 69 to tie for third with K.J. Choi (69) and Andres Romero (70).

Couples learned earlier in the week that his former wife, Thais Baker, died of breast cancer.

Mickelson finished at 15-under 269 and won for the 35th time in his career. It was the first time since the 2005 PGA Championship that he won a tournament without breaking par in the final round.

Roberts wins by stroke

NAPLES, Fla. | Loren Roberts thrust both arms toward the sky, and let out some emotion. He knew he earned his ninth career victory on the Champions Tour.

Roberts made a three-foot birdie putt on the last hole to win the ACE Group Classic, beating Gene Jones by one stroke.

Roberts shot a 68 to finish at 7-under 209. Jones, who led by a shot coming into the final round, put up a 70.

It was Roberts’ second win in four years at Naples. He joined Lee Trevino (1990-91), Mike Hill (1993-94), Hale Irwin (1997, 2002) and Gil Morgan (1998, 2001) as two-time champions.

Lee wins Walker Classic

PERTH, Australia | U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee birdied the final two holes for a 5-under 67 and a one-stroke victory in the Johnnie Walker Classic.

The 18-year-old New Zealander, set to turn pro after the Masters, had a 17-under 271 total on the Vines Resort’s composite course.

“It feels like I’m dreaming at the moment,” Lee said. “I won lots of amateur tournaments before and the U.S. Amateur, but this is a totally different feeling. It’s a pro event. All I wanted to do is make the cut and play well and get in the top 20. But I played extremely well today, and I won it.”

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