Mickelson clinches Masters with birdie
American Phil Mickelson held his nerve to clinch a one-shot victory at the U.S. Masters on Sunday, holing a 15-foot birdie putt at the last to end his long wait for a first major victory.
The 33-year-old left-hander, who had previously produced 17 top-10 finishes in 46 majors, fired a closing 69 to overhaul a last-day charge by Ernie Els.
Mickelson, long regarded as the best modern-day player not to win a major, became the second successive southpaw to win the cherished green jacket at Augusta following last year's winner Mike Weir of Canada.
"I just kept believing something would happen...and it did," an emotionally-drained Mickelson told reporters.
"Having faced such a tough quest (to win a first major), it feels much better now that I finally have it."
South African Els, who had led by two with five holes to play, shot a five-under 67 to finish second at eight-under 280. South Korea's KJ Choi was a further two strokes back in third after a 69.
Els, who started out three behind overnight leaders Mickelson and Chris DiMarco, put himself on track for a fourth career major with eagles at the eighth and 13th holes.
He forged two clear when he rifled his approach from 206 yards at the 510-yard 13th to just 10 feet, calmly rolling in the putt to move to four under for the day and seven for the tournament.
Moments later, Mickelson had a chance to draw level with Els with an eagle of his own at the same hole but his putt from 20 feet slid past the cup.
However, the tap-in for birdie lifted the American into outright second. He closed to within a stroke of the lead at seven under after he almost holed out for eagle at the par-four 14th.
Twice U.S. Open champion Els stayed at eight under by parring 16 and 17.
Yet Mickelson, desperate for his major breakthrough, was not done. He drew level with Els by holing a left-to-right breaking putt from 20 feet for birdie at the par-three 16th, and set up his birdie at the last by splitting the fairway with his drive.
As the putt hit the cup, Mickelson threw his arms in the air in a mixture of relief and joy.
Korean Choi, three off the lead overnight, holed out with a five-iron approach from 220 yards at the par-four 11th, registering the third eagle at that hole in Masters history.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia tied for fourth at three-under 285, reeling off an astonishing eight birdies in 11 holes on his way to a best-of-the-week 66.
"It was a good round but unfortunately I didn't get the start I wanted, despite playing well for the first six holes," said Garcia, who had trailed the leaders by 11 after double-bogeying the par-three sixth.
Level with the Spaniard at three under was European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer, who carded a final-round 72.
Germany's Langer, twice champion at Augusta and three behind the leaders overnight, chipped in for birdie at the par-four first and picked up another shot at the 575-yard second to climb into contention.
World number one Tiger Woods, who tumbled out of contention for a fourth green jacket with a third-round 75, battled to a closing one-under-par 71.
The eight-times major winner, who started out nine off the lead, vomited several times on the front nine before rallying to finish at two-over 290.
"I ate something at lunch here that didn't agree with me, but I got it out," said the three-times champion, after mixing six birdies with a double-bogey at the par-three 12th and three more dropped shots.
"I just didn't make any putts this week. I'm disappointed I didn't win, I felt like I hit the ball well enough to do it."