ATLANTA — Phil Mickelson had the smaller cheque and felt like the biggest winner. Tiger Woods was congratulated after he finished second in the Tour Championship.
Sunday was the ninth time that golf’s two biggest stars finished one-two in a tournament.
Never have they shared the spotlight, each going home with a trophy that was meaningful in its own way.
Mickelson capped off a tumultuous summer at home with a spectacular rally at East Lake, closing with a 5-under 65 to go from four shots behind to a three-shot victory, his first since his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring.
Woods made two late birdies, not enough to put any heat on Mickelson, but to secure the FedEx Cup and its US$10 million bonus. It finished a season in which he won six times and was no worse than second in nine of his 17 tournaments.
“I like the way today went,” Mickelson said. “I was two back of him, I beat him by three. He gets the $10 million cheque, and I get $1 million. I’ve got no problem with that. I just love holding this finally.”
He motioned toward the crystal trophy of the Tour Championship, which has not belonged to him since he won in 2000 at East Lake by again rallying in the final round to beat Woods.
Mickelson finished at 9-under 271 and earned $1.35 million. He also collected $3 million for being second in the FedEx Cup. It was his third victory of the year, the 37th of his career and it pushed him back to No. 2 in the world ranking.
“It means a lot to finish the year off on such a good note,” Mickelson said. “We’ve been through a lot, and I’m very proud of my wife and my mom on the fight that they’ve been through. We’re in good shape. Although day-to-day is tough, and it’s not easy for them, we’re fortunate that our long-term outlook is good.”
Woods stood on the 18th green with his biggest rival, perturbed by his inability to make putts inside 20 feet, trying to remind himself that he had a remarkable season coming off major knee surgery.
“I’m sure I would probably be more happy tomorrow than I am right now, because you’re in the moment trying to win this event,” Woods said. “Winning takes care of everything. But when you’re in the moment out there, I’m trying to win a golf tournament. I’m trying to beat Phil, he’s trying to beat me … we’re all there, and it was just a great leaderboard.”
It was a great finish to a FedEx Cup that was compelling to the very end.
Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., closed with a 74 and tied for 25th.