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Lefty 'not going to let one hole ruin my day'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Phil Mickelson was defiant to the end,
insisting one bad score wasn't going to spoil an otherwise
spectacular day.

How about four of them?

During the Wachovia Championship, Lefty played the par-3 17th in
7 over -- with three double bogeys -- and knocked his tee shot into
the water three days. That included Sunday, when he made a charge
up the leaderboard with nine birdies in the first 15 holes.

Mickelson narrowly missed another one at 16, then headed to the
next tee thinking he still might have a chance to win. An awful
7-iron never had a chance to find land, so he reloaded and hit his
third shot in the middle of the green.

He two-putted for double bogey, then added a bogey on the final
hole to finish tied for seventh at 5 under.

"I had it going and made nine birdies and it was a good time,"
Mickelson said. "I felt like starting the round, if I could shoot
9 under that it might be good enough. You just never know."

Instead, he was left with a 6-under 66, tied for low round of
the day with four others.

"I'm not going to let one hole ruin my day," he said. "It was
unfortunate. I had a chance to win, but those things happen, and
for whatever reason, that hole just gave me fits this week."

It reminded him of the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, when
he played the 16th hole there in 6 over. With all pars at 17 at
Quail Hollow, he had a chance to join the three-man playoff with
Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk.

"There's a good chance playing that hole 7 under may have
gotten me over the top this week, but you've got to play all of
them," Mickelson said. "You've got to play all 72. That one just
gave me a hard time."

Until his struggles, Mickelson energized a large gallery with
electrifying play. He shot 31 on the front, then birdied 10 and 11
to get to 7 under for the day. After two pars, he nearly drove the
short par-4 14th with a fairway metal, then saw his pitch nestle
next to the hole for a tap-in birdie.

Another one at 15 moved him to 8 under for the tournament, and
when leader Sergio Garcia faltered a bit at the start, Mickelson
believed he might come all the way back to the lead. A tough kick
off the fringe on his approach to the 16th left him with a downhill
30-footer, and his putt slid just by the lip.

Then came the disaster at 17.

"I got to 9-under through 15 and I felt like I needed to get
one or two more to have an outside chance if Sergio backed up a
little bit," Mickelson said. "Unfortunately, I didn't finish well
on 17 and 18."

Birdies and bogeys
Charles Howell III finished an up-and-down
week at Quail Hollow with a bogey-free round of 68 -- with the
emphasis on no bogeys.

Howell had no trouble scoring all week, making 17 birdies. But
he kept himself out of contention with too many mistakes, some of
them from the middle of the fairway.

"Everything is good with my game. I'm working hard on it, and
I'm working on the right things," Howell said. "I'm excited about
the direction it's going."

His only victory came three years ago at a tournament that no
longer exists (Michelob Championship at Kingsmill), but Howell
showed signs early this year with close calls at the Sony Open and
Buick Invitational. Then he missed the cut at The Players
Championship and the Masters.

"I'd rather take a bullet in the foot than miss a cut there,"
said Howell, who grew up in Augusta, Ga. "But what can you do?
I've had a good start to the year, and I'm looking forward to the
rest of it."

Divots
The playoff was the third in a row on the PGA Tour and the
fifth in the past six tournaments. It also was the 12th consecutive
stroke-play event decided on the final hole. ... The others with 66
in the fourth round were Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Chris DiMarco and
Carlos Franco. ... With virtually no wind for the first time this
week, the average score dropped to 72.3, and 13 players shot better
than 70.