First, apologies for the Ewen Murray-style headline…
Yes, Phil Mickelson, five-times a major champion but winless for approaching five years (in fact, since his last major title, the Open Championship at Muirfield in July 2013), won the WGC/Mexico Championship at the Chapultepec Golf Club, just outside Mexico City, after a playoff with the reigning USPGA champion, Justin Thomas. The American pair had both finished the tournament with 16-under-par totals of 268, a shot clear of an Englishman, Tyrrell Hatton, and a Spaniard, Rafa Cabrera Bello. Mickelson prevailed at the first extra hole.
“I can’t put into words how much this means to me,” said the 47-year-old left-hander. “It’s been a long time. To come here to Mexico City with the fans here and play against the best players in the world and finally come through. I knew it was going to come soon; I was playing too well for it not to, but you never know until it happens. My game is starting to get to a level that is some of my best golf and it seems like it’s just in time. It’s nice to be in that small circle called the winner’s circle. I haven’t been in it for a while.”
Cabrera Bello’s round included holing out for an eagle from a bunker on the opening hole, while Hatton later produced a more conventional eagle at the 15th, but the one that seemed to have won the tournament belonged to Thomas. He had been 11 shots behind the halfway leader, Shubhankar Sharma of India, the current leader of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, after 36 holes but a scintillating 62 on Saturday hauled Thomas up the leaderboard. He had six birdies in his first 15 holes yesterday but a three-putt for a bogey four at the 17th seemed it might have killed his chances…that is, until his 120-yard wedge shot to the last screwed back into the hole for an eagle two, which gave him a 64 for the day.
That eventually meant both Mickelson and Hatton required a birdie at the last to win. Only Mickelson could manage even a par. Hatton was left with a handsome payday while Phil went into what transpired to be a one-hole playoff. At the first hole of overtime, the par-three 17th, Phil found the green whereas Justin didn’t. Thomas again made a bogey (how he must hate that hole, a mere 161 yards as it measured) while Mickelson two-putted from 20 feet for victory. In fact, it was something of a miracle that his putt for a two stayed out.
Before the tournament began, Mickelson had indeed been talking a good game. “I’m playing really well right now,” he said. “I feel my game is better than it has been in a long time. If it doesn’t happen this week then I’m sure it will soon.” Words that pretty much echoed what he said when it was over. As a three-time Masters champion, he’ll doubtless head to Augusta – where the tournament begins a month today – feeling good about his chances there. Of course, what he’d like more than anything is that his game is exactly where he wants it to be when he arrives at Shinnecock Hills in June for the US Open, the one major championship he has never won. But as he showed in Mexico, there’s plenty of life left in this old dog yet. He is now the oldest-ever winner of a World Golf Championship event.
You can follow me on Twitter @robrtgreen and also on my other blog: f-factors.com