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Mickelson avoids meltdown, wins

Phil Mickelson pumps his fist as he eagles the first hole in the final round of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles on Sunday. With a 15-under 269, he won the tournament by one stroke.

AP PHOTO

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 5 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.

Lefty won for the 17th time on the West Coast, and it could not have come at a better time. He had failed to break the top 20 in his first three starts, missing the cut in Phoenix and making it on the number at Pebble Beach.

Amateur 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 Sunday 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.”

Japan’s Hiroyuki Fujita (67), Chile’s Felipe Aguilar (68) and England’s Ross McGowan (70) tied for second in the event sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian tours. The second-place finishers all shared in the $298,000 that Lee would have collected if he was not an amateur.

Lee is the first amateur to win on the Australasian PGA Tour since Brett Rumford in the 1999 ANZ Players Championship at Royal Queensland. The last amateur winner of a European tour event was Pablo Martin at the 2007 Portuguese Open.

Rarely showing emotion on the golf course, Lee pumped his arms briskly when a 15-footer on 17 went in for birdie. On 18, a hole he had birdied in the previous three rounds, his approach left him with about a 40-footer for eagle.

Roberts takes Champions event

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 3-foot birdie putt on the last hole to win The ACE Group Classic on Sunday, 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.

Roberts won $240,000 out of the $1.6 million purse. It was his fifth professional win in Florida.

It was the 12th time in the tournament’s 22-year history that it had been decided by either a playoff or one stroke. It was also the 12th time that the winner came from behind.

Roberts and Jones were tied going into the final hole.

Jones hit his approach to 12 feet, then Roberts knocked a pitching wedge from 102 yards to 3 feet. Jones, seeking his first win on the Champions Tour, had his birdie putt just go past the left edge.

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