SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Phil Mickelson had a putt for 59 in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open that caught the right edge of the cup, curled 180 degrees and stayed out. Three days later, he flirted with the PGA Tour's 72-hole scoring record.
History aside, Lefty left the desert with the big trophy Sunday and a huge confidence boost after a season that got off to a shaky start on and off the course with middle-of-the-pack finishes at La Quinta and Torrey Pines and headline-making talk about tax increases.
His victory in Phoenix also boosted him back into the top 10 in the latest edition of the Official World Golf Ranking. Mickelson began the year ranked 17th, and had slipped to 22nd before his performance in Phoenix boosted him back up to No. 10. Also this week, Stephen Gallacher of Scotland jumped from 111th up to 60th by winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Mickelson’s move was one of the few affecting the top world’s top 10. The top five of Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Louis Oosthuizen all stayed in place.
Brandt Snedeker edged up from seventh place into sixth, thanks to his second-place finish in Phoenix – whch came six days after he tied for second behind Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines. Adam Scott dropped from sixth to seventh, while Lee Westwood and Bubba Watson retained their spots at eighth and ninth ahead of Mickelson.
The second 10 includes No. 11 Jason Dufner (down from 10th), No. 12 Ian Poulter, No. 13 Steve Stricker (down from 11th), No. 14 Keegan Bradley (down from 13th), No. 15 Sergio Garcia (down from 14th), No. 16 Dustin Johnson (down from 15th), No. 17 Webb Simpson (down from 16th), No. 18 Charl Schwartzel (down from 17th), No. 19 Graeme McDowell (down from 18th) and No. 20 Peter Hanson.
''It's an important one for me, because it's been a while since I won, been a while since I've been in contention,'' Mickelson said. ''I was certainly nervous heading into today. I think the thing I'm most excited about was the way I was able to regain control of my thoughts after a few shots early on that I didn't care for.''
He thrived when the pressure was the greatest Sunday.
The biggest test came on the par-3 seventh when his 5-iron shot sailed long and right, stopping an inch from the fringe and leaving him in danger of losing at least a stroke to playing partner Brandt Snedeker. Instead, he ended up leaving Snedeker shaking his head and went on to complete a wire-to-wire victory.
Fifty-five feet away, with a mound and a 20-foot swath of fringe between his ball and the hole, Mickelson decided to putt through the taller grass rather than chip over it. He had caddie Jim Mackay remove the flagstick so that it wouldn't deflect the ball if it had too much speed, a move that proved wise when the ball raced into the cup.
''The challenge of that was to judge the speed where half the putt is through fringe and half is on the green,'' Mickelson said. ''I got lucky to have made it, obviously. I was just trying to two-putt it. It was going fairly quickly when it got to the hole, probably would have been 6, 8 feet by. With Brandt in there close, that was a big momentum change.''
Mickelson shot a 4-under 67 to finish at 28-under 256, two strokes off the PGA Tour record set by Tommy Armour III in the 2003 Texas Open. The 42-year-old former Arizona State star settled for a 60 on Thursday and followed with rounds of 65 and 64 to take a six-stroke lead into the final round.
''I think that sets up the tone for the rest of the year, because I really started to play well,'' Mickelson said. ''But for me, the rest of the year took a turn on Tuesday when I got my new driver. It just changed my whole deal.''
Mickelson took a three-stroke lead to the 17th tee, and nearly drove into the left-side water on the drivable par 4, his ball stopping a yard short of the hazard. He flopped his second shot 15 feet past the hole and made the birdie putt.
Mickelson parred the par-4 18th after another drive to the left, one that easily cleared the water he hit into Friday en route to a double bogey, and Snedeker closed with a bogey.
Mickelson had his third wire-to-wire victory and first since the 2006 BellSouth Classic – a 13-stroke blowout the week before the second of his three Masters victories. He pushed his victory total to 41, winning for the first time since 51 weeks ago at Pebble Beach – where he will go for a record-tying fifth victory in a few days.
Making his 24th appearance in the event that he also won in 1996 and 2005, Mickelson tied the tournament scoring record set by Mark Calcavecchia in 2001, and joined Calcavecchia, Arnold Palmer and Gene Littler as the only three-time winners. With six victories in Arizona, Mickelson also matched Johnny Miller's PGA Tour record.