March 4 (Reuters) - After nearly five years and more than 100 tournaments without a win, five-times major champion Phil Mickelson summed up his victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship in one word - “incredible”.
A par putt on the first playoff hole on Sunday 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 of the victory.
And with the Masters coming up in a month, the five-times major winner 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.”
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford