Mercedes Championship
Mercedes Championship
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KA LUA, Maui, Hawaii -- Golf has been a part of Phil Mickelson's life since a very early age. The defending champion of the Mercedes Championships started swinging a golf club when he was 18 months old. He began copying his father's swing by standing opposite him during his first 18-hole round of golf at age four. At age nine he knew he wanted to be a professional golfer.

Since then, all he has found is success. As a youngster, Mickelson won 34 San Diego County junior titles. He went on to Arizona State University and became a four-time All-American (just one of three in NCAA history) and a three-time NCAA champion. His '89 NCAA title made him just the fourth freshman to win the tournament. In 1990 he won both the NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur, a feat achieved by just two others, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

Current Champion -
Phil Mickelson
Mickelson will defend his Mercedes Championships title when the tournament moves to Kapalua's Plantation Course Jan. 7-10, 1999. The Mercedes Championships is the PGA Tours elite, limited-field season-opening tournament featuring winners from the previous year.

Since joining the PGA Tour in 1992, Mickelson has won at least one tournament each year for a total of 13 titles. His conquest in the 1991 Northern Telecom Open represented the first tour win by an amateur since Scott Verplank in 1985.

Mickelson's 1991 and '95 wins in the Northern Telecom Open marked the first time a player had won the same event as an amateur and professional. With a win at the 1997 Bay Hill Invitational, Michelson became the fourth youngest player to reach ten victories, trailing legends Horton Smith, Jack Nicklaus and Gene Sarazen.

"Winning tournaments is important to me. That's what we all play for," Mickelson said. "I've worked hard to get where I am."

Mickelson certainly knows how to handle final-round pressure as well. Last year he held off Mark O'Meara and Tiger Woods by a stroke to win the Mercedes Championships, shooting steady rounds of 68-67-68-68-271, for a total of 17 under par. It was Mickelson's second Mercedes victory, having also won the tournament in 1994.

"It meant a great deal to me to win the Mercedes Championships for a second time," said Mickelson, 28, of Scottsdale, Ariz. "One of my goals each year is to get off to a good start and win early. Doing so at the first event of the year against all the previous year's winners is a great boost to your confidence and momentum to have a good year."

The talented lefty, who is a natural right-hander, chalked up his 13th PGA Tour title in the rain-delayed AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am by firing a final-round 67 for a 202 total. Including back-to-back second-place finishes at the Sprint International and World Series of Golf the weeks following his Pebble Beach win, Mickelson posted nine top-10 finishes and completed the year sixth on the money list with a career-high $1,837,246 in earnings. He has never finished outside the top 30 in season earnings since turning pro.

In 1998 he qualified for his third Presidents Cup team, and he twice has played for the US in the Ryder Cup.

Mickelson is looking forward to competing for the first time at Kapalua's Plantation Course. "If the Mercedes Championships had to move, Hawaii is certainly a good choice," he said. "It's one of my favourite places to visit and play golf. I've heard a lot of great things about the golf course. It should be a great week of golf."