Mickelson surges on back nine for Champions win

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RICHMOND, Va. — Phil Mickelson became the fourth player and second this year to win his first two starts on the PGA Tour Champions, slamming the door on Mike Weir with a back-nine surge Sunday in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Mickelson closed with a 7-under 65 to finish at 17-under 199, three strokes better than second-round leader Weir, the fellow 50-year-old left-hander who had a 71. Mickelson was a stroke off the tournament record set last year by Miguel Angel Jimenez.

The winner in late August at Ozarks National in Missouri in his first start on the 50-and-over tour, Mickelson joined Bruce Fleisher, Jim Furyk and Arnold Palmer as the only players to win in their first two senior events. Palmer accomplished the feat in 1980, Fleisher in 1999 and Furyk did it this year with victories at The Ally Challenge and Pure Insurance Championship.

Mickelson described his decision to play in Virginia as the start of his Masters preparations with a focus on accurate driving and competitive fitness, and it worked.

Mickelson, who got the lead when Weir three-putted the par-3 14th green, doubled his edge with a birdie on the next hole, then highlighted his distance advantage over the 2003 Masters champion by driving the green on the 274-yard, par-4 15th. He two-putted from 30 feet to double his lead, then reached the par-5 16th in two and made birdie. Weir also made birdie to stay within two shots, but ran out of holes.

Mickelson’s chance to work on his competitive side came right away. He erased a three-shot deficit with birdies on three of the first six holes while Weir made a string of pars, but it was on the back nine that he was really tested, and delighted with his response.

After going a shot behind on the 12th hole, he pulled even at No. 13 and kept pushing.

Mickelson, who hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since early 2019 at Pebble Beach, plans to return to the PGA Tour next week for the Zozo Championship in California. After a week off, he’ll play in the Houston Open as his final preparation for the Masters on Nov. 12-15.

Weir three-putted the par-5 18th, but still hung on to beat Paul Goydos (65) by a shot. Bernhard Langer (67) and Brandt Jobe (68) shared fifth, five behind Mickelson.

It was Weir’s third top-10 finish in eight starts on the tour.

Robert Karlsson, another rookie on the tour, closed with a 64, including an albatross 2 on the final hole. The ball bounced twice, then found the bottom of the cup.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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