HOUSTON, April 3 (UPI) -- Phil Mickelson caught fire with five straight birdies Sunday, firing a 7-under-par 65 and cruising to a victory at the Houston Open.
Mickelson and Scott Verplank shared the lead after three rounds, but the 40-year-old defending Masters champion left Verplank behind on the back nine and finished at 20-under 268.
Verplank was stung by a three-putt bogey on the 14th hole that dropped him one stroke back and couldn't recover. He finished with a 4-under 68, tied for second place with Chris Kirk (67), three strokes back at minus-17.
Mickelson now comes into next week's Masters on a high note. He is the last player to win the week before the Masters and then follow it up with a victory in Georgia -- a feat he accomplished with his second Masters title in 2006.
Steve Stricker (69) and Aaron Baddeley (71) finished knotted for fourth place four shots further back at 13-under 275.