Upset win for Mickelson, Garcia

Published : Aug 23, 2003 00:00 IST

This has not been the best of seasons for Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, with both dropping out of the top 10 in the world ranking.


This has not been the best of seasons for Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, with both dropping out of the top 10 in the world ranking.

But on that Monday night's prime-time, made-for-TV "Battle at the Bridges,'' Mickelson and Garcia came through with the best of nights, upsetting Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, the two top-ranked players in the world, in a match-play format. Woods and Els never led in the match, which Mickelson and Garcia wrapped up on the 17th hole.

"I had three looks right in a row on the back nine and missed all three,'' Woods said. "They both played really solid. Ernie and I just didn't get it done tonight.''

The exhibition, staged annually since 1999, was held for the first time at the Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe course, about 25 miles north of San Diego. The par-71 layout, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., opened in 1999. Starting at the 16th green, the conclusion of the match was played under specially installed lights.

The best-ball, match-play format is ideal for Mickelson and Garcia, the top two players in the game who have not won a major championship. Both can be wild, but they can also be brilliant, capable of posting one birdie after another. Mickelson and Garcia will split $1.2 million, and Woods and Els will divide $500,000. Charities will receive a total of $300,000.

Mickelson, 11th in the rankings after starting the season No. 2, has failed to finish in the top 10 of an event since April, when he finished third in the Masters. He tied for 59th at the British Open,, and tied for 58th in last Greater Hartford Open, in which he was the two-time defending champion. Garcia has only two top-10 finishes in 14 appearances. He has fallen from fourth to 14th in the world.

"Sergio and I haven't played to our expectations,'' Mickelson said. "Hopefully it will give us confidence for the rest of the year.''

Woods and Els, despite their inability to win a major in 2003, have played much closer to their lofty standards. Woods, who went back to a Titleist driver and dispatched his Nike Golf club, has four victories in 11 starts and leads the money list. Els, who won the first two tournaments of the year in Hawaii, is in eighth place.

After Woods lipped out, Mickelson made an 8-foot birdie putt on the opening hole to put his team on top.

On the third, it was Garcia's turn, converting a 10-footer to give his team a two-hole advantage. Els and Woods missed makeable opportunities at the fourth. Els chipped in from 35 feet at the fifth, but Mickelson halved the hole with his own birdie from six feet. Then, at the sixth, after the other three missed their birdie attempts, Garcia came through again, from 12 feet, to put the underdogs three-up.

On the par-5 seventh, however, Garcia missed a 3-footer that would have halved the hole. Instead, because of a birdie from Woods, the favourites finally earned honours. It seemed to be just the momentum they needed. At the 220-yard, par-3 eighth, Woods hit a 5-iron to within a few feet. Mickelson and Garcia were, suddenly, only 1-up. But Woods and Els would not win another hole.

At the ninth, Garcia made a 15-footer for yet another birdie, but was immediately matched by Els, who converted from eight feet. Then, at 10, after Mickelson made a birdie, Woods followed with one to halve the hole. At 11, Mickelson and Garcia both missed good opportunities.

At 15, with darkness rapidly approaching, Woods barely missed a putt that would have squared the match. On the next hole, Garcia made a long eagle putt to put his team 2-up with two to play.

The prime-time series began when Woods defeated David Duval 2 and 1 at Sherwood Country Club near Los Angeles.

The next three matches were held at the Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert. In 2000, Woods lost to Garcia 1-up. A year later, he teamed with Annika Sorenstam to outduel Duval and Karrie Webb in 19 holes. In 2002, Woods and Jack Nicklaus prevailed over Garcia and Lee Trevino, 3 and 2. Woods is the only player who has competed every year.

New York Times News Service

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