1. It has been a long time since Phil Mickelson won a golf tournament but his victory on Sunday really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
Sure, when a golfer gets to 47 and hasn’t won in a while, it’s easy to think his best years are behind him. But with Mickelson, it’s not as if he hasn’t been playing some good golf.
Since his last victory, he’s posted 16 top-10 finishes and been runner-up in two majors. Outside of a miraculous performance by Henrik Stenson two years ago at Troon, Phil would have raised the Claret Jug for a second time.
And he arrived in Mexico on a roll, with top-six finishes in his three previous starts. Those were buoyed by his putting, which has been very strong this year. He leads the tour in putts per round average with a mark of 26.96.
So while winning is never a guarantee in golf, Mickelson’s victory really isn’t that big of a shock. You know what else won’t be surprising? If he happens to win again in the not-too-distant future.
2. You can bet that as happy as Mickelson was with the victory, he was just as happy to see his name move inside the top eight on the U.S. Ryder Cup standings.
Lefty now sits fourth on the American side and he looks to be in good shape to join Jim Furyk’s side in Paris. Mickelson has been on every Ryder Cup team since 1995 and won the team competition three times, but there’s one thing he’s never done: win it on foreign soil.
3. Mickelson’s drought may have been lengthy but it was nothing compared to another winner on Sunday. Steve Stricker captured the Cologuard Classic on the Champions Tour, marking his first victory on any professional circuit in six years.
Stricker, 51, posted a final-round 69 to earn his first win on the 50-and-over circuit. His last title was the 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
4. There was one other remarkable finish on the Champions Tour Sunday. Bernhard Langer, who has won 36 titles on the older guys tour and been its most dominant player in the last decade, recorded his worst finish. He completed the Cologuard Classic tied for 54th, with rounds of 68-77-73.
5. Not to be overlooked was the victory by Michelle Wie, ending her own lengthy winless streak. The Big Wiesy holed a 35-foot putt from off the green at the 72nd hole of the HSBC Women’s World Championship to earn her first title since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. It was the fifth career title for Wie, who many seem to think should have won more during her lengthy tenure on the LPGA Tour.
Wie has drawn criticism over the years for everything from choosing to play against men in her early days to a more-than-awkward putting style. But few have ever doubted her raw talent. Perhaps that’s about to shine through a little more often.
6. Wie’s win came by a shot over a number of golfers including Brooke Henderson. It was the third top-10 finish in four starts for the Canadian who moved up one spot in the Rolex Rankings to 13th. It seems unusual for a player as good as Henderson is to be mired down the global list. The reason? She simply plays too much. A player’s total points are divided by the number of tournaments played and Henderson plays more than anyone else on tour. She is currently counting 62 events on the rolling two-year cycle. That’s five more than the next player ahead of her, Ariya Jutanugarn. Shanshan Feng, the No. 1 golfer on the Rolex Rankings, has 50 tournaments.
Henderson has stated that her goal is to get to No. 1 in the world and right now, the best way for her to move up the list – as strange as it may seem – is to play less.
7. Adam Hadwin put on a weekend charge in Mexico, finishing with rounds of 67 and 66 to post a tie for ninth. That was good enough to move him to 44th on the Official World Golf Ranking, which equals his career best mark. It also confirmed his coming schedule. Hadwin will defend his title at the Valspar Championship this week, then skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational before heading to the World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play. If he’d dropped out of the top 64 in the world and missed the match play event, his plan was to play at Bay Hill.
Of course Hadwin will also be at the Masters and reportedly has a practice round set up with fellow Canadian and 2003 winner Mike Weir.
8. The PGA Tour has had lots of great stories this year with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Justin Thomas. But you might be hard-pressed to name the player who has the most top-10 finishes on the Tour this year – Brian Harman. The lefthander was tied for fifth at the WGC Mexico Championship, giving him a sixth top-10 in nine starts.
9. He might still qualify on his own, but if there was ever a case to be made for a special exemption to the Masters, it would be for Shubhankar Sharma.
The Indian golfer led the tournament in Mexico for three rounds before settling for a tie for ninth. It wasn’t just Sharma’s first World Golf Championship event, but his first PGA Tour start as well.
Augusta National is pretty stingy in handing out free passes but the club has also been a big proponent of growing the game in other parts of the world, helping start both the Asian Amateur as well as the Latin American Amateur. Giving Sharma a spot would mean showcasing golf back to a country with a population of a billion people.
Sharma is also eminently qualified as he currently leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
The last player to get a special exemption from Augusta National was Ryo Ishikawa in 2013.