Clarke bags top-15 finish as Mickelson makes all on Champions

Adam McKendry
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Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and President of PGA TOUR Champions Tour Miller Brady laugh together on the 18th green after the final round (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Darren Clarke recorded a top-15 finish at the Constellation Furyk & Friends in Jacksonville, Florida as Padraig Harrington ended his week strongly while discovering life on the PGA Tour Champions is not an easy one.

While Clarke was shooting a three-under 69 at Timuquana Country Club to finish in a tie for 13th at six-under for the week, Harrington recorded the same score but it was only good enough to see him end the tournament in a tie for 55th at two-over. Both finished well adrift of Phil Mickelson, who claimed his third win in four PGA Tour Champions starts, a final round 68 to win by two from Miguel Angel Jiménez at 15-under.

For Clarke, it is a week that sees him stay ninth in the Schwab Cup money list as he carded six birdies and three bogeys in his 69, although he will be frustrated with the end of his round as he birdied 15 and 17 but he gave away those shots at 16 and, more annoyingly, 18.

Meanwhile, Harrington saved his best round of his week for last as he birdied two of his opening three holes and then eagled the par-five 13th in his only sub-70 round at Timuquana to at least take some positivity moving forward.

His first two rounds of 74 and 75 were well off the level that the European Ryder Cup captain has produced in the past – even this year – but his first taste of what is required to be successful on the new Tour will stand him in good stead as he makes the transition across.

Unfortunately for the two Irishmen, it was Mickelson who continued his domination of the seniors scene as he made it win No.3 in Florida as he held off the challenge of Jiménez to lift the title.

The 51-year-old had started the day leading by a pair and looked in complete control as he birdied his first three holes, only for a double-bogey at the fifth to drop him back down towards the chasing pack, just one ahead of the mercurial Spaniard.

Mickelson scrambled all day, hitting just five fairways in his round, but still led by two when he birdied the 12th, only for Jiménez to pull level at the top with birdies at 13 and 14. However, a birdie at the par-five 15th did it for the US PGA champion as he pulled into a lead that he would never relinquish, and he closed it out with a comfortable 10-foot putt on the 18th to secure the victory.

“(Jiménez) played some really good golf. He made a great up-and-down on 13 and the shot on 14 was really impressive. He just stuck it in there tight and wouldn’t go away,” praised Mickelson.

“I was appreciative that I was able to birdie two coming in and come out on top, but it was a tough day. I thought after birdieing the first three that it was going to be a really special round, but that drive on five kind of shook me and I had to kind of stabilise a little bit so I made a bunch of pars.

“When I started to feel a little bit better, I was able to try to make some birdies. I think to be able to win a tournament that Jim and Tabitha have started and the way I look up to them and respect them and the hard work they’ve put into making this tournament unique and special, it’s fun for me to come out on top.

“I really enjoyed this golf course, too. I think that it’s a spectacular, fun golf course to play and a lot of the character of the course, the challenges, the subtleties on the greens, the little nuances, the bunkering, it’s just really well done.”

As for what he puts his excellent form on the PGA Tour Champions down to, with the World No.35 having won the Charles Schwab Series and Dominion Energy Charity Classic last year, Mickelson simply admitted he was enjoying playing on the senior circuit.

“It’s a good start. I’m having fun, I’m having fun playing here. I’m enjoying being around the guys, I’m enjoying the golf courses, how I can be a little bit more aggressive and like when I made a mistake on No.5, I can still recover,” he explained.

“You do that on the regular Tour, you just get eaten alive, you just can’t make those mistakes there and have a chance to compete and contend and win. So I like how you don’t have to be perfect and I can get away with a shot or two here or there, so it makes it fun to play and play aggressive.”

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