Mickelson holds off Casey to win Pebble Beach Pro-Am

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Phil Mickelson captured his 50th career worldwide title on Monday, finishing off the last two holes of his darkness-halted final round to win the US PGA Pebble Beach Pro-Am tournament.

The 48-year-old American closed with a six-foot birdie putt at the par-5 18th hole to complete a bogey-free final round of seven-under par 65 and conclude 72 holes on 19-under 268, defeating England’s Paul Casey by three strokes.

Casey, who also birdied 18 to finish a last-round 71, and Mickelson were the only players stopped by darkness in Sunday’s hail-delayed final round, Mickelson with two holes remaining and a three-stroke edge over Casey, who resumed by making a three-foot par putt at 16.

It was the fifth career PGA victory at Pebble Beach for Mickelson, who matched the all-time record set by fellow American Mark O’Meara. He also became the oldest-ever PGA winner at the famed California coastal layout.

“It has been a special week for me,” Mickelson said. “This is a special place for me. Every time I come here I have special feelings.”

It’s the course where his grandfather worked as a caddie and where he began his pro career.

Mickelson claimed his 44th US PGA Tour title and has also won three European Tour titles, the 2004 Grand Slam of Golf and 2004 Skins Game and a 1993 Challenge Tour event in Paris.

Mickelson had not won on US soil since the 2013 Phoenix Open.

Phil Mickelson poses with the trophy. – AFP

Five-time major champion Mickelson will try to complete a career Grand Slam at Pebble Beach in June at the US Open, an event where he has finished second a record six times, most recently in 2013.

And while he enjoyed the victory, Mickelson didn’t consider it meaningful in any way for the US Open.

“(It means) absolutely nothing because it’s nothing like the course we’ll see,” Mickelson said. “The rough will be so deep and the greens will be so fast it will be a totally different course.”

Scott Stallings, the American who held the clubhouse lead at nightfall Sunday on 15-under, was on hand in case he might be involved in a playoff but settled for third.

Joining Casey and Mickelson on the course on Monday was Don Colleran, a FedEx executive who with Casey led the two-man Pro-Am competition by one stroke at 33-under par. Casey’s closing birdie ensured their triumph.

Casey decided to stop ahead of his putt on 16 on Sunday even as Mickelson pushed to start the par-3 17th hole.

“I thank Paul for having us come back out here,” Mickelson said. “I get sometimes in my own little bubble and I don’t see the big picture. He protected both of us.”

When they did tee off in cold conditions at 17, Mickelson and Casey each drove the ball about eight feet from the cup, missed a birdie putt and tapped in for par.

At 18, Mickelson put the ball in the fairway twice and dropped his approach six feet from the cup to set up his final birdie putt.

Casey was just shy of the green in two but got up and down from six feet to finish second alone.

“I take a lot from this,” Casey said. “I worked on some things, warm-up routines – I’ve worked hard on the putting and it’s starting to pay dividends.”

Casey was pleased to join Colleran as a Pro-Am champion after a near miss last year.

“Over the moon we got the win,” Casey said. “This was a big goal.”