Mickelson holds nerve to edge Els

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The Independent Online

Phil Mickelson is excited about the prospects 2010 will bring after ending a difficult season with a thrilling victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions here yesterday.

In a year in which his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer, the world No 2 followed up September's Tour Championship win with a one-stroke victory over South Africa's Ernie Els to claim a second WGC title of his career, adding to March's CA Championship success.

With a nervous wife Amy cleaning cupboards while watching at home in the US, Mickelson crucially birdied the penultimate hole of his battling three-under-par final round 69 after saving par with a testing breaking putt a hole earlier following a duffed attempted flop shot.

Els, playing two groups behind the overnight leader, had snatched the lead with back to back birdies, but bogeyed the last hole in a course record nine-under 63 after hitting his approach into water to complete a decisive two-shot swing in the American's favour.

"It feels terrific because I had to fight so hard throughout the day," said Mickelson. "I didn't hit it great, the putts weren't falling, but I was able to hang in there." And while Mickelson would have preferred to have finished ahead of playing partner Tiger Woods when the world No 1 was at the top of his game – he shot a poor level-par 72 to finish five shots back – the win sets the 39-year-old up well for the new season.

"I am excited about 2010 because I am starting to play the best golf of my career," added Mickelson. "Everything is starting to come together as far as my driving goes, since working with Butch Harmon, my ball-striking has been much better and my short game is as good as it's ever been."

American Ryan Moore claimed third, a further shot off the pace following a 68, while Rory McIlroy moved up to second place in the Race to Dubai after finishing fourth by equalling Els' record round of 63.

Woods, who began the day two shots adrift of Mickelson in second, uncharacteristically missed several short putts yesterday to finish alongside German Martin Kaymer.

"Anything that could go wrong, did," said Woods. "I didn't really envision shooting even par. The only only good thing is I don't think many of the guys went deep, so that makes you feel a little better. I would have had to shoot 67 to get into a play-off so the [leading] guys took it deep and I didn't."

Spaniard Alvaro Quiros (66) and money list leader Lee Westwood (71) shared eighth at 11 under par.