Phil Mickelson cruised to victory Sunday in the Masters Tournament, earning his second green jacket with a strong 69 in the final round to give him a seven-under 281 on the week. Paired with fellow former winner Fred Couples on Sunday afternoon, Mickelson played par golf early and made timely birdies on the back nine to propel himself to a two-stroke victory over South Africa's Tim Clark.

Couples and a host of the game's biggest names (including Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, and Jose Maria Olazabal, among others) looked poised to overtake third-round leader Mickelson at various times during the final 18, but Mickelson kept avoiding the types of mistakes that his opponents eventually succumbed to. Couples and Woods, perhaps the two biggest fan favorites in Augusta this week, missed several crucial short putts down the stretch, miscues that would ultimately cost them a shot at the tournament. Olazabal surged with a Sunday 66, but ran out of holes before ever seriously being in contention for first place. Rocco Mediate -- bad back and all -- stuck around for a surprisingly long time, but his hopes were dashed when he found Rae's Creek three (!) times on No. 12. Singh, too, was never able to mount a charge because of his faulty putter, and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez fizzled late in the round after a valiant bid midway through. Clark persisted through a rough ending to Round Three on Sunday morning, and was rewarded with sole possession of 2nd place when he holed a bunker shot on 18, finishing with a 5-under-par 279 for the week.

But, when the dust settled, there was only Mickelson at the top of the leaderboard. His second Masters win gives him his second straight Major Championship victory, having won the PGA Championship last August. Mickelson has also won each of the last two weeks on the PGA Tour, having won the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta a week ago.


Sun 04/09/06, 6:07 pm EST



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