March 5, 2018 / 2:59 AM / 7 months ago

Golf: After barren run, Mickelson savors that winning feeling again

(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”.

Mar 4, 2018; Mexico City, MEX; Phil Mickelson watches his birdie putt on the 17th green during the final round of the WGC - Mexico Championship golf tournament at Club de Golf Chapultepec. Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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.”

Mar 4, 2018; Mexico City, MEX; Phil Mickelson putts on the 18th green during the final round of the WGC - Mexico Championship golf tournament at Club de Golf Chapultepec. Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mar 4, 2018; Mexico City, MEX; Phil Mickelson watches his shot from the seventh tee during the final round of the WGC - Mexico Championship golf tournament at Club de Golf Chapultepec. Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

“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

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