Charles Howell III fired a final round of 65 to reel in long-time leader Phil Mickelson on the final day of the Nissan Open at the Riviera Country Club in California ? and then defeated his fellow American in a play-off at the third extra hole.

The 27 year-old from Augusta, claiming his second career PGA Tour title, climbed to the top of the FedEx Cup standings as a result of this win and strong early-season form which also includes two second place finishes.

Mickelson was hoping for back-to-back victories after his success in last week’s Pebble Beach Pro Am, but after leading for the best part of three days he made a costly bogey on the 72nd hole that led to the play-off. Howell, who had endured 10 agonising second-place finishes since his win in 2002, made a par on the third extra hole ? the par-3 14th ? while Mickelson could only register a bogey.

“I’m delighted to have finally won again, it’s been a long time,” said Howell.

“I said a little prayer when I stood over that last putt. I thought it might finally be my time.”

Mickelson had started the final day with a one-stroke lead over Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, but ultimately suffered a day to forget.

“I felt like I had the tournament in my grasp and I let it go,” he reflected.

“I had every chance on the back nine to get some seperation between myself and the rest of the field, to not give them a chance. I couldn’t do it.”

South Africa’s Ernie Els, Jim Furyk of the USA and Australia’s Robert Allenby tied for third place on -13. Spain’s Sergio Garcia found himself next in the field on -11, while Harrington struggled to a final round of 73 and seventh place.

NISSAN OPEN – LEADING SCORES
Riviera CC, California

1. C Howell III (USA) -16* (won in play-off)
1. P Mickelson (USA) – 16
T3. E Els (RSA) -13
T3. J Furyk (USA) -13
T3. R Allenby (Aus) -13
6. S Garcia (Spa) – 11
7. P Harrington (Ire) -10