Phil now eyes the Masters

After ending five-year drought with 'incredible' WGC win, Mickelson says he's starting to play his best golf

After nearly five years and more than 100 tournaments without a win, five-time Major champion Phil Mickelson summed up his victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship in one word - "incredible".

A par putt on the first play-off hole yesterday morning (Singapore time) earned Mickelson the win over Justin Thomas and gave the 47-year-old Hall of Famer encouragement that his game was getting back to its best.

"I don't know what to say," he told Golf Channel. "It has been a tough go the last four years.

"Not playing my best but to have the belief I was going to get there and finally break through and to do it feels incredible."

Especially the way he did it, overcoming a two-stroke lead by Thomas with birdie putts on the 15th and 16th holes in a round that included seven birdies and a pair of bogies.

"It just validates the hard work I have put in and the struggle over the last few years to get my game back," said Mickelson.

And with the Masters coming up in a month, he believes he can be a factor again after missing the cut in 2016 and tying for 22nd last year.

"I feel like I am starting to play my best golf," said Mickelson, who had slipped to 34th in the world golf rankings but will rise to 18th this week.

"I know and respect and admire how great these young players are. Yet I welcome and cherish the opportunity to compete against them.

"To have a little taste of success this year has been really encouraging."

Still, it did not come easy.

"I tried to look calm on the outside but inside I am shaking and I enjoy that," Mickelson said.

"That was what was so fun. That nervousness (that) started before the round and all the preparations.

"All those nerves that you feel. I haven't felt that in a long time because I haven't been in the last group in a long time.

"So it has been really fun."

Shubhankar Sharma's hopes of winning on his Tour debut were dashed by a torrid final round but the 21-year-old Indian's performance has made the golfing world sit up and take notice.

Sharma teed off in the final group along with Mickelson and Tyrrell Hatton at Club de Golf Chapultepec, holding a two-shot lead and needing one more great round to become the youngest winner of a WGC event, as well as the first to win in his first WGC start.

However, his lead soon vanished and four bogeys in his last six holes condemned him to a 74 in the final round, pushing him down to a tie for ninth on 274.

"A little bit disappointed, I was leading and I think I couldn't finish it off today," said Sharma. "But that's what the game is about. And what I learned, especially playing with Phil, I'll cherish it forever."

Sharma has already tasted victory this season with European Tour victories in South Africa and Malaysia and his Joburg Open win earned him a ticket to this year's British Open at Carnoustie.

Sharma is the country's highest-ranked golfer at No. 66.

A top-50 spot is needed to punch his ticket to next month's US Masters but the tournament has in the past invited a non-exempt Asian player, raising the possibility that Sharma might make Augusta National without qualifying automatically.

Mickelson had mistaken Sharma for a member of the media on Sunday but will no doubt be able to put a name to the face in future.

"I saw how well he struck the golf ball. He hit a beautiful tee shot on one, you can tell he can really play," Mickelson said. "I saw some of the putts, some of the highlights with the putter.

"I know he's a very talented player and I believe he's leading the Order of Merit on the European Tour, so I know what a great player Mr Sharma is.

"I probably shouldn't say that, he's 26 years younger than me!" - REUTERS