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Mickelson holds off Watney for 1st WGC win

DORAL, Fla. - There was the hospital trip for two bags of intravenous fluids before the final round. The hot showers and baths to alleviate nighttime chills. The right-handed swing with a left-handed club to extricate his ball from shrubbery. The upstart challenger who wouldn't go away.

Phil Mickelson overcame it all.

And he's closer than ever to overtaking Tiger Woods.

Mickelson shot a 3-under 69 Sunday to beat Nick Watney by one shot at Doral, getting his first World Golf Championships victory and vaulting to No. 2 in the world behind Woods. Mickelson finished at 19-under 269 and earned $1.4 million, the biggest payday of his career.

Not bad for a guy who could barely eat for three days, spent part of his Saturday night in an emergency room fighting dehydration and got tested all the way to the end by Watney, who came up with plenty of dazzling shots before falling just short.

'I enjoy this process of competing, being in the final group, tied for the lead, against a player who is playing some terrific golf, feeling that pressure, feeling that intensity, and how important each shot is throughout the entire round,' Mickelson said. 'All of that adds to helping me.'

He meant helping him win.

He may as well have said helping him take the No. 1 spot in the world.

Mickelson has never been closer to passing Woods in the world rankings, a spot he's long aspired to be in.

But Mickelson would hardly revel in that Sunday, saying all the right things about how Woods - who was in a stroke-play event for the first time since last summer's U.S. Open, after which he needed knee surgery and missed eight months - will certainly be good as ever soon enough.

'He's the greatest player of all time. I don't want to go there with the world ranking,' Mickelson said. 'What I'm excited about is I'm playing some of my best golf.'

Watney finished with a 2-under 70, and had plenty of moments. He holed a birdie chip from behind the ninth green, giving a Tiger-esque fist pump after the ball fell and even drawing applause from Mickelson.

Watney followed that with eagle at the par-5 10th to tie Mickelson at 20 under, but bogeyed the next two holes and never got back into the top spot.

'I'll get over this,' Watney said. 'It's a positive week. I played really well. Beat 78 of the best players in the world. Beat Tiger, which is always good. I'm very pleased with the way I'm playing.'

Woods, in his first stroke-play event since winning the U.S. Open, shot 68 to finish eight shots behind in a tie for ninth.

'I'm happy with the way I played,' Woods said. 'I didn't say the way I finished.'

Jim Furyk shot 31 on the back nine for a 67 to finish alone in third. Jeev Milkha Singh had a 70 and was alone in fourth, his best result in a PGA Tour event.

'Those boys up front were superb,' Singh said.

He and Furyk never seriously challenged Mickelson and Watney, though, and the stage was clear for what essentially amounted to match play on the back nine.

Watney is no Woods, but he did his part in reprising a classic Doral duel.

It was 2005 when Woods and Mickelson went head-to-head in the final round, where Mickelson's 30-footer from just off the 18th green came tantalizingly close to falling into the cup. The miss gave Woods a one-shot victory.

Mickelson could appreciate Sunday's irony. It was Watney with a 30-footer from behind the green this time, down by a shot, and his putt stopped one rotation shy of the hole.

'I've been there, man,' Mickelson said. 'I know that feeling. It's not a great one.'

Nor was his feeling Saturday night, when he got under the covers and couldn't stop shaking for more than 30 minutes. A hot shower didn't help, nor did a hot bath. So tournament officials were summoned, a trip to an emergency room was arranged, and two IV bags got Mickelson through the night.

He stayed in bed until about an hour before his mid-afternoon tee time, guzzled drinks throughout the round, managed to keep half a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich down and gritted out his 36th PGA Tour victory.

'With Phil and myself there, I think as a whole, the game is in good stead right now,' Woods said.

Mickelson took 69 shots Sunday, 68 of them left-handed.

On the par-5 12th hole, Mickelson pulled his tee shot right and the ball nestled under a bush.

'I certainly didn't want to have to hit a right-handed shot with the lead,' Mickelson said. 'I wasn't trying to be showy. I just didn't have a choice.'

So Mickelson pulled an 8-iron, inverted it and swung right-handed to advance the ball. He eventually made bogey - as did Watney, who needed five shots to finish after what seemed to be a perfect tee shot left him with a 4-iron into the green.

Two bunker shots and a missed 6-footer later, Watney was still one shot behind.

'I gave away two shots there,' Watney said.

They made nothing but pars the rest of the way.

For Mickelson, it was enough, and his run to the Masters got another boost.

'I'm very excited to have finished it off,' Mickelson said.