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Mark Wilson wins in a playoff

Packers fan Mark Wilson celebrated a big victory of his own on a playing field about as close to frozen tundra as it gets on the PGA Tour.

A self-described cheesehead from Menomonee Falls, Wis., Wilson won the frost-delayed Phoenix Open on Monday for his second victory in three starts this year, holing a 9-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff with Jason Dufner.

“I’m just enjoying the ride here and that’s just kind of the way I’m going to look at the year here, just ride this train as long as I can,” Wilson said.

After playing until dark Sunday and fulfilling some parental duties, he was able to watch only a few minutes of the Super Bowl.

“I had to wash Lane’s face and put his jammies on, and I had to eat, too,” Wilson said. “The chaos, with two little kids running around—I like the chaos; it’s a good distraction. But at that time, I want to at least get to watch the last 15 minutes of this game. This doesn’t happen every year, the Packers in the Super Bowl.

“Luckily, my son, after we played Candy Land in the middle of the fourth quarter, he said, `OK, the last two minutes we can watch it together.’ So we watched that last stand, and I was happy that they somehow pulled it off.”

Delays for frost and frozen turf the first four days forced the Monday finish.

Two strokes ahead when play resumed Monday, Wilson closed with a 2-under 69 to match Dufner at 18 under. Dufner shot a 66, with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.

“I was a little more nervous today than I was expecting,” Wilson said. “I didn’t sleep great last night. It was probably the excitement with the Super Bowl and the uncertainty of today.”

The Sony Open winner last month in a 36-hole Sunday finish, Wilson made a 4 1/2 -foot par putt on the par-4 18th to extend the playoff. He won on the par-4 10th, setting up the deciding putt with a 7-iron approach from the middle of the fairway.

“That was an easy putt,” Wilson said. “Just thankfully, I started it on line and knocked it in.”

Dufner was facing a 7 1/2 -foot par putt when Wilson ended the playoff.

“Came out and made a couple birdies to put maybe a little heat on Mark, and he played great,” Dufner said. “Great two-putt on the first playoff hole from 70-plus feet and makes birdie on the next hole.”

Wilson earned $1,098,000 for his fourth PGA Tour title. The 36-year-old former University of North Carolina player also won the 2007 Honda Classic and 2009 Mayakoba Golf Classic. He jumped from 91st to 51st in the world ranking— locking up a spot in the 64-man Match Play field—after finishing last season at No. 230.

After resuming play Monday on the 13th green, Wilson made seven straight pars before holing the winning birdie putt.

He nearly drove into the water on the left side of the 18th hole in regulation, but the ball cleared the hazard and ended up in a bunker. He hit a 9-iron approach to about 14 feet and two-putted to force the playoff.

“I got away with a bad tee shot on 18, but luckily got a good bounce and was hoping I’d finish it off there,” Wilson said. “But the playoff was fun.”

Dufner is winless on the PGA Tour. He also settled for par on the final hole of regulation after nearly holing out from a greenside bunker.

“It’s a good start to the year,” Dufner said. “To be honest, this is a course that I never really thought I could compete on. History on this golf course is a lot of long-ball hitters. Mark and myself probably aren’t the longest, but we’re probably not the shortest. But to be able to compete and be at the top of the field for the week is good, so it’s definitely good momentum for the rest of the West Coast swing.”

Martin Laird (65) and Vijay Singh (66) tied for third at 16 under, and Gary Woodland (66), J.B. Holmes (67) and Nick Watney (68) followed at 15 under.

Third-round leader Tommy Gainey, a stroke back with two holes left, closed with a 74 to tie for eighth at 14 under. He made a triple bogey on the par-4 17th after hitting into the water twice on the driveable hole.

“I guess I’ve just got to deal with it,” Gainey said. “You’ve got to win with class and you’ve got to lose with class, so I’m trying to deal with that right now.”

Phil Mickelson tied for 29th at 10 under. He finished with consecutive 71s after getting into contention with opening rounds of 67 and 65.

Mickelson, second a week ago in San Diego, needed at least a solo third-place finish to pass Tiger Woods for No. 3 in the world. Lefty hasn’t been ranked ahead of Woods since the week before the 1997 Masters.

Mark Wilson leads heading to monday finale

Mark Wilson held a two-stroke lead in the Phoenix Open when play was suspended Sunday because of darkness.

Wilson broke a tie with Tommy Gainey with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th. Gainey three-putted the hole for a bogey.

“I birdied some tough holes,” Wilson said. “The 4-iron I hit on 12 was the best swing of the day and I rolled in that putt. Just felt good.

“Been a long ride. I mean, four holes the first day, 28 holes the next day and then four holes and now 31 holes, and we’ll do five more tomorrow and see what happens.”

Wilson and Gainey were facing 20-foot birdie putts on the par-5 13th when they decided it was too dark to finish the hole.

“I was thinking about putting it, but it’s hard to read and it’s a goofy little putt,” Wilson said. “It’ll be a lot easier tomorrow morning.

“Someone was screaming in my head saying, `Don’t putt this tonight!’ So, when I heard that voice, I said, `Let’s mark it.”’

Wilson was 18 under. Gainey was tied for second with Vijay Singh and Jason Dufner. Singh shot a 5-under 66, while Dufner had four holes left.

The start Sunday was delayed a half-hour because of frost. About nine hours of playing time has been lost to frost and frozen turf, forcing the Monday finish.

Wilson completed a 68 in the third round Sunday and was 2 under through 12 holes in the final round. On the amphitheater 16th in the third round, Wilson and caddie Chris Jones donned cheeseheads and led the rowdy fans in Packers chants.

Gainey was 1 over in the final round after shooting a 68 in the third round to take a one-stroke lead over Wilson.

“I’m not too happy in my position right now, two back, but I’ve just got to come out tomorrow and just get it done,” Gainey said. “Just start making some putts.”

He matched Wilson with a bogey on the par-4 11th after driving into the water on the left, then dropped another stroke on 12 when he three-putted from 90 feet.

“I made a couple bogeys the last few holes, and you know, I didn’t think I really hit that many bad shots to be honest with you,” Gainey said. “The drive on No. 11, I thought was good. I hit it in the middle of the fairway and it just happened to go in the water. That’s just how it goes.”

Singh, winless since 2008, was the last player off the course, putting out on the par-4 18th in the dark more than 10 minutes after Wilson and Gainey stopped playing.

“I’ve got no chance,” Singh said. “They’re going to come back tomorrow and I think the leaders have two par 5s to go and 17, and they’re good enough players.”

Singh has been slowed by right knee problems.

“Considering all, this is the first time that I’ve actually felt good, and coming back to the way I know how to play golf,” he said. “Whatever happens, I’m very satisfied with my result this week.”

J.B. Holmes (67) and Nick Watney (68) finished at 15 under. Martin Laird and Chris Couch also were 15 under. Laird had two holes left, and Couch had five.

Fan favorites Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, paired together in the second-to-last group, dropped out of contention.

Fowler holed out from 123 yards on the final hole of the third round for a 69, but was six strokes back at 12 under with five holes left.

Mickelson, second a week ago in San Diego, had a 71 in the third round and was 11 under overall. He needs at least a solo third-place finish to pass Tiger Woods for No. 3 in the world. Lefty hasn’t been ranked ahead of Woods since the week before the 1997 Masters.

Fowler wore a hot pink hat, shirt and shoes in the third round, prompting a female fan near the 16th green to shout “Rickie, I want your shoes!” In the fourth round, he switched to an all-orange “Oklahoma State” ensemble.

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