Resurgent Phil Mickelson Ends Five Year Wait for Victory

By: | Mon 05 Mar 2018 | Comments


HE'S back! Phil Mickelson won for the first time since claiming the 2013 Open Championship when he defeated Justin Thomas in a playoff to secure the WGC – Mexico Championship and secure his first title since winning the Open in 2013.

The American pair finished tied on 16 under par after a thrilling final round at Chapultepec Golf Club.

Mickelson's birdie putt lipped out at the first playoff hole – the par three 17th – but when Thomas failed to get down in two from behind the green, the 47-year-old was able to celebrate his first victory in almost five years.

It has been coming. In his past three starts he has finished fifth, second and sixth. But get over the finishing line when you haven't won for so long is no easy matter. Needless to say, Mickelson was thrilled.

“I can't put into words how much this means to me, its been a long time as you say,” he said. “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.”

England's Tyrrell Hatton, who missed out on the playoff after a bogey at the last, and Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello tied for third on 15 under.

Cabrera Bello holed a bunker shot for an eagle at the first to catch overnight leader Shubhankar Sharma before the Indian had even teed off. The Spaniard, Hatton and Mickelson all had spells in front but Thomas, who was 11 shots behind Sharma after 36 holes before carding a stunning third round of 62, made six birdies in his first 15 holes to edge ahead.

A bogey on the 17th looked to have derailed his challenge, but Thomas holed his approach from 120 yards at the 18th to set a daunting clubhouse target with a round of 64.

Hatton joined him when he followed a birdie on the 14th with an eagle from 11 feet on the 15th, while Mickelson birdied the 15th and 16th before his 25-foot effort on the next missed by a whisker.

With both needing a birdie on the last, Hatton and Mickelson miscued their approaches and Hatton was unable to get up and down, but Mickelson held his nerve from five feet to seal a closing 66 before a par at the first play-off hole saw him become the oldest winner of a WGC event.

Sharma shot a closing 74 as the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex leader marked his WGC debut with a tie for ninth.

EUROPEAN TOUR

George Coetzee returned to Pretoria Golf Club in Waterkloof to confirm the formality of his fourth European Tour title at the Tshwane Open. He twice had to leave the course in the closing stages of the final round after 71 holes on Sunday when storms forced him off the course.

Coetzee and Sam Horsfield were the only players left on the course when the rain came for the second time and were desperate to finish but the conditions were too bad. Coetzee, who is one of the best putters on the European Tour, produced a superb display on the greens. He is a member at Pretoria and fought back superbly after two early bogeys saw him fall behind Mikko Korhonen, of Finland.

He birdied five of his next eight holes, needing just 10 putts to get to 18 under and lead Korhonen by three before the hooter sounded due to thunder and lightning at 3.37pm.

Coetzee was on the 16th tee when play was suspended, with Korhonen ahead on the green.

It was Coetzee's fourth European Tour title - and all of them have come on home soil. Korhonen was a runner-up here last season and was looking for a first win at the 140th attempt.

South African Daniel van Tonder fired a 65 to set the clubhouse target at 14 under and was one clear of Chilean Felipe Aguilar and Frenchman Sebastien Gros - who were both playing the last - and  Horsfield.

The final four groups returned to the course an hour and 34 minutes after the first weather delay and, despite a further 17-minute delay, Coetzee held his nerve to card a 67, stay at 18 under and finish two shots ahead of Horsfield.

Horsfield finished with three birdies in a 67 to edge a shot ahead of Korhonen, with Aguilar, Gros and Daniel van Tonder at 14 under.

Coetzee is a player blessed with huge talent but he has been sliding down the world rankings and was desperately in need of this win.

"A lot has happened since the last time I held that trophy [in 2015]," he said. "I broke my ankle and I kind of 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.

"They were amazing, I don't think I could have done it without everybody out here supporting me the whole week.

"On the eighth hole I started making everything, me and the greens became one. That really made it easier for me to not worry so much about where I'm hitting it."

An approach to three feet on the third put Korhonen within one of the lead and a Coetzee stumble soon had him in front.

The 31 year old's second on the third came up short of the green and a poor chip led to a dropped shot.

Korhonen found sand off the tee on the par three fifth but holed his bunker shot to edge ahead and when Coetzee had to play sideways out of the trees on the fourth, the 37 year old had a two-shot lead.

Coetzee holed from six feet on the sixth but a 20-footer on the seventh from Korhonen re-established the two-shot cushion before Coetzee went on an incredible run with the putter.

He holed from 12 feet for a birdie on the eighth, saved par after finding water on the ninth and a poor spot on the tenth, and then holed a 30-footer on the 11th for four consecutive one-putts and a share of the lead.

He was a long way away on the green at the par five 12th but got down in two to lead, although Korhonen would join him as he holed from the fringe ahead on the 13th.

Another long putt from Coetzee moved him ahead on the 13th and after a Korhonen bogey on the 15th, Coetzee birdied the same hole from ten feet to lead by three before the horn sounded.

A poor tee-shot on the 17th from Korhonen meant that lead was up to four but Horsfield birdied both the 16th and 17th from around ten feet and, with Coetzee going over the back of the green and dropping a shot on the penultimate hole, his lead was two going up the last.



Korhonen took advantage of the par five to join Horsfield in second before Horsfield, the 2017 Qualifying School winner, recovered well from a poor second to make a birdie of his own, with Coetzee also making a birdie as he got up and down from a bunker.

Van Tonder birdied the third but then gave the shot back on the sixth before making six birdies in his next eight holes to sit just one off the lead. He bogeyed the 15th but then birdied the last to sign for a 65.

Gros also carded a 65, with birdies on the first, sixth, eighth, 12th, 13th 17th, 18th and a bogey on the seventh.

Aguilar started with a bogey but that was his only blemish as he added birdies on the fifth, sixth, ninth, 17th and 18th in a 67.

Scotland's Scott Jamieson finished at 13 under, two shots ahead of Spaniard Pedro Oriol - who carded the lowest round of the week with a 62 - and South Africa's Thomas Aiken.


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