Citizen Staff Writer
Sometimes referred to as the “master of choke,” Phil Mickelson turned fate around Wednesday. And for the third straight year, he advanced to the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Mickelson nailed a 3-foot putt on the 19th hole to beat gritty Argentinian Angel Cabrera in the first round Wednesday after losing a 4-up lead with five to go.
Six straight one-putts within 5 feet didn’t convince Mickelson he was a world beater, but a win is a win.
“It feels great to be able to put a performance up like that when I really didn’t play my best throughout the day,” he said. “But when I needed to, I was able to make a few birdies coming in.”
The big one came on the final hole. Cabrera, who had three straight birdies on Nos. 15-17 after struggling with short putts, hit his second shot 35 feet to Mickelson’s sky drop 3 feet away. Mickelson sank his putt, but it almost lipped out.
Cabrera sent the match to the 19th with a 10-foot putt on No. 18. He won four straight holes, starting with No. 14, in his comeback.
“I give him a lot of credit for really gutting it out,” said Mickelson, who lost a five-stroke lead last week in the Northern Trust Open before recovering to win.
In a matchup of Masters winners, Mickelson will try to break a recent second-round jinx Thursday against Zach Johnson, who beat Graeme McDowell 2 and 1.
Mickelson predicted before the tournament that the short game and putting on the undulating greens would be a key. Johnson agreed. “I’m not going to blister a golf course with my power, that’s for sure,” he said. “I’ve got to play strategic golf and I think desert golf kind of lends itself to that, anyway. So I think it plays into my favor in that regard.”