Mickelson clinches first win since Open success
Phil Mickelson claimed his first victory since lifting the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013 — ending a wait of 1688 days.
After a 102 tournament stretch, the 47-year-old claimed a dramatic and historic win at the WGC-Mexico Championship, secured with trademark style too.
It was his 49th professional success, nervelessly secured in a play-off over the in-form FexEx Cup champion Justin Thomas, who was seeking back-to-back wins. Thomas, just 24, wasn’t even born when ‘Lefty’ won his first PGA Tour event.
"This is a very meaningful win,'' said Mickelson, who has been posting a string of top six finishes in recent weeks. "I can't really put it into words given the tough times over the last four years, and the struggle to get here, and knowing that I was able to compete at this level but not doing it. To finally break through and to have this validation means a lot to me" he added.
"I don't think that this is the peak either, I think I'm going to continue to get better.''
Thomas holed a dramatic 119 yard eagle on the 18th to set the clubhouse lead but Mickelson responded to the challenge. He saved par on the 14th with an improbable escape and then put together consecutive birdies, including draining a 20 foot birdie putt on the 16th.
The play-off - remarkably the sixth in the past eight weeks on the PGA Tour - lasted only one hole, after Thomas made a bogey on the par-3 17th. “I would have loved to drum him out there in that play-off, but I'm just happy for Phil, he’s playing some great golf,” said Thomas.
Angry Hatton still shows he’s the real deal
England’s Tyrrell Hatton was left to reflect what might have been as he watched Mickelson and Thomas duel it out at the Chapultepec Golf Club. But there is no doubt Hatton - a double winner on the European Tour last season, who is inching closer to the world’s top ten - now belongs in that company.
A clearly pumped up Hatton put together four straight 3s down the stretch, including a brilliant eagle at the 15th that put him into a tie for the lead. But he missed a par putt at the last, meaning he sat out the extra holes by a single shot. "I can't believe that I'm not at least in the play-off,'' he said. “There aren’t many opportunities to win WGC events and I’ve thrown this away. I’m upset and I’m angry.”
Sharma’s star on the rise
Rising star Shubhankar Sharma got a glimpse of the bright lights in Mexico — and now wants more. The 21-year old was the surprise 54 hole leader on his WGC debut and got the chance to play with Mickelson, who had mistaken him for a journalist just a few hours earlier, in the final round.
Sharma is a two-time winner on the European Tour this season, the Joburg Open and Maybank Championship, and despite his youth will be favourite to win this week’s Indian Open on home soil. “You can lead after 54 holes but the game is about leading after 72 holes,” he said. “I’m still learning and I’ve learned an awful lot playing and watching with Phil, I’ll cherish it forever.”
Not prime Spieth yet but getting better
Champion Golfer Jordan Spieth insists his game is progressing nicely after a tie for eighth in Mexico. Spieth’s start to the season was hampered by the bout of mononucleosis that cost him nearly three weeks of off-season preparation at the end of last year. But, he believes, thing are slowly starting to click ahead of the first major of the season at Augusta next month.
He said: “My game is progressing nicely and every week's is getting a little bit better. I’m working hard on getting my putter back to the level I know it can be at.”
Coetzee clearly loves his home comforts
Home advantage proved decisive as South Africa’s George Coetzee claimed the European Tour’s Tshwane Open with a nerveless charge down the stretch in Pretoria.
Coetzee won on his home course three years ago and this is his fourth Tour success - with all wins coming on African soil. The 31-year old started the day with a two-shot lead but soon found himself two shots behind Finland’s Mikko Korhonen. But he kept his cool as thunder and lightning delayed play, producing a putting masterclass on the back nine.
“I needed to show myself that I could win on Tour again and it's nice to come and do it again in front of the home crowd,” said Coetzee. “A lot has happened since the last time I held that trophy. It’s amazing to win on my home track. I was hitting brilliantly but my putting was amazing. I couldn’t let my guard down at any point but, luckily for me, it was just my day.”
Woods inspired by Mickelson’s success?
Fourteen-time major winner Tiger Woods will play in two upcoming PGA Tour events as he prepares to return to the Masters at Augusta next month. Woods will take part in this week’s Valspar Championships for the first time and then returns to the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando - which he has won eight times - for the first time since his success there five years ago.