Phil Mickelson Lets Another Slip Away

Monday, July 16th 2007, 7:42 am
By: News On 6

LUSS, Scotland (AP) _ This time, Phil Mickelson needed two bad drives on the closing hole to throw away another victory.

Thirteen months removed from his 72nd-hole meltdown in the U.S. Open, Lefty bogeyed Loch Lomond's 18th hole twice _ in regulation and a playoff _ Sunday to hand Frenchman Gregory Havret the Scottish Open title.

``I really struggled off the tee and the back nine was a fight for me,'' Mickelson said after bogeying three of his last five holes in his final tournament before the British Open begins Thursday at Carnoustie.

And the American star is still trying to erase the memory of that U.S. Open collapse last summer at Winged Foot, where a terrible drive on the 72nd hole led to a double bogey _ and left him one stroke behind winner Geoff Ogilvy.

``Greg played very solid golf and I played very erratic golf,'' Mickelson said. ``I made birdies and bogeys and he just played steady with solid pars and ultimately that won out in the playoff because he was just much more consistent.''

Havret qualified for his first major, finishing off Mickelson with a 6-foot par putt after blasting out of a greenside bunker. The Frenchman was then doused with champagne by countryman Thomas Levet.

Now it's on to Carnoustie, where another Frenchman, Jean Van de Velde, improbably squandered a three-stroke lead on the final hole of regulation in the 1999 British Open and went on to lose to Paul Lawrie in a playoff.

Havret almost secured a spot in the British Open last week in the European Open in Ireland, but finished third at The K Club.

``I was disappointed, but I knew I had another chance, especially on a course like this that I love so much,'' he said.

With a one-stroke lead going to the final hole of regulation, Mickelson drove into thick rough along the right side of the fairway. He needed a chip and two putts for bogey, while Havret got down in two from 15 feet. With the closing par, Havret finished with a 3-under 68 to match Mickelson (69) at 14-under 270.

Mickelson's drive in the playoff plopped into the shin-high reeds along the water on the left side of the fairway, forcing him to hit an awkward shot that skidded sideways back into the fairway. His third shot wound up on the fringe at the back of the green, leading to another bogey.

``I just tried to make a good swing and blocked it left,'' Mickelson said. ``I hit a good shot out of the swamp, but I hit the third shot way too hard.''

Mickelson, winless on the PGA European Tour, also bogeyed the 14th and 16th holes in regulation, but bounced back with birdies on 15 and 17.

Mickelson, whose only victory abroad was in the 1993 Perrier Open in Paris, a second-tier event, began the day with a one-stroke lead. He stayed in front until the 14th hole, when his bogey and Havret's birdie left them tied.

``When Greg plays solid like that, not only does he deserve to win, but he makes himself very tough to beat,'' Mickelson said.

Two-time Loch Lomond winner Ernie Els made a 40-foot birdie putt on 18 to finish third, a stroke out of the playoff. Luke Donald (64), Richard Sterne (64), Pelle Edberg (66) and Louis Oosthuizen (68) tied for fourth at 11 under.