Bubba Watson crushes Kevin Kisner to claim WGC Match Play ahead of the Masters

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Bubba Watson will head to Augusta National as a strong contender for a third Masters title after thrashing Kevin Kisner 7&6 to win the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

After preventing Justin Thomas becoming world number one with a 3&2 victory over the US PGA champion in the semi-finals, Watson took ruthless advantage of a poor performance from Kisner to cruise to a second World Golf Championships title.

Kisner looked to be feeling the effects of needing 19 holes to beat Alex Noren in the other semi-final and bogeyed four holes in succession at Austin Country Club after Watson won the first with a birdie.

It took Watson missing from four feet for birdie on the sixth to stop the rot and until the 11th for Kisner to win a hole with a long-range birdie, but Watson’s birdie on the par-five 12th secured a comprehensive success.

Watson, who won the Masters in 2010 and 2012, told the Golf Channel: “It was one of those things. I got off to a hot start and just focused on golf.

“There were about four or five shots for the week where I wasn’t committed and kind of blanked out so that’s pretty good over 100 and something holes.”

Thomas admitted the chance to become world number one had played heavily on his mind during his semi-final defeat to Watson.

With defending champion Dustin Johnson crashing out in the group stages, Thomas needed to reach the final to end Johnson’s 58-week reign and become the 21st number one since rankings began in 1986.

However, Watson fired two birdies and an eagle in the first six holes and although Thomas battled back to one down at the turn, Watson birdied the 10th and was gifted the 12th when Thomas found water with his approach.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said in quotes reported by the Golf Channel. “And that really sucked.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest. And I think you’re constantly getting questions about it with the media. But I need to be mentally stronger than that, and understand that it’s just a match.”

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Shubhankar Sharma breaks course record at Indian Open

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India’s young golfing sensation Shubhankar Sharma on Friday fired a course record of eight-under 64 to stay within touching distance of clubhouse leader Emiliano Grillo on the second day of the Indian Open.

Argentina’s Grillo, who scored four-under 68 after his course-record equalling 65 in the opening round at the DLF golf and Country Club in Gurgaon, remains top of the leaderboard.

21-year-old Sharma said he was pleased with his performance on Friday, which leaves him four shots off the lead in sole second place at seven-under for the tournament.

“This is a tough course and it is not easy to go low here. I am very happy with the way I played,” he said in a statement.

“Today’s round will definitely rank up there as one of my most significant achievements, especially when it is played at this course,” Sharma added.

Home favourite Sharma had an ordinary start on Thursday after shooting one-over at the Gurgaon course, considered among the toughest on the Asian and European tour.

“If you told me I would be seven-under-par going into the weekend after being five-over-par on my opening nine holes yesterday, I would just have laughed,” he said.

Sharma has shot up the world golf rankings after a stellar few months, with wins at the European Tour’s Joburg Open in December and Maybank Championship this February, and a strong showing at the WGC-Mexico Championships last weekend.

Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal scored a one-under 71 and was tied for third spot with English golfer Andrew Johnston, who hit six-under 66 for a total of 138.

Nine of the total 144 golfers were not able to finish their second round on Friday because of fading light.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Phil Mickelson ends drought with WGC Mexico play-off triumph

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Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson defeated Justin Thomas in a play-off after an extraordinary climax to the WGC-Mexico Championship to claim his first victory since the 2013 Open.

Mickelson parred the first extra hole to become, at the age of 47, the oldest winner of a World Golf Championship event and secure the 43rd title of his career.

Thomas failed to get up and down from the back of the 17th green, the same hole he had three-putted in regulation to kick-start a remarkable sequence of events.

The US PGA champion, who won the Honda Classic in a play-off eight days earlier, then holed his approach to the 72nd hole for an eagle two to set a clubhouse target of 16 under par which looked difficult to catch.

But England’s Tyrrell Hatton also reached 16 under thanks to birdies on the 12th and 14th and an eagle of his own on the 15th, while playing partner Mickelson birdied the 15th and 16th to make it a three-way tie.

That tie was broken when Hatton bogeyed the final hole of regulation and meant the 26-year-old had to settle for a share of third with Spain’s
Rafa Cabrera Bello, who had birdied the same hole in his closing 67.

Mickelson and Thomas headed back to the par-three 17th for sudden death and after Mickelson’s birdie attempt had agonisingly grazed the edge of the hole, Thomas missed from 10 feet for par.

Thomas had been 11 shots off the lead at the halfway stage of the £7.2million event, but carded a course record of 62 in the third round and a brilliant closing 64, with Mickelson shooting a final round of 66.

“I can’t put into words how much this means to me,” Mickelson, who had finished fifth, second and sixth in his previous three starts, told Sky Sports.

“It’s been a long time and to come through here in Mexico City, with the fans here and to play against the best players in the world and finally come through… I knew it was going to be soon, I was playing too well for it not to be, but you just never know until it happens.

“To be able to share this with my family, my brother (his caddie Tim) and everybody really means a lot, especially knowing all the tough times we’ve had the last four years.”

Asked about the upcoming Masters, a major title he has already won three times, Mickelson added: “My game’s starting to get to a level that is some of my best golf and it seems like it’s just in time.”

Thomas told the European Tour website it was “pretty unbelievable” he had even had a chance of winning.

He said: “I’m really proud of myself how well I played, how I hung in there, how I even had a chance to win. Obviously the play-off didn’t go how I wanted but I’m happy for him and proud of him. He’s really been working hard to get back in the winner’s circle, and it was a great week for both of us.

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas

“I putted pretty well this weekend. I made some putts and that’s what you have to do to shoot 16 under on a weekend. We had a chance and that’s all I could ask.”

Hatton, meanwhile, spoke of his frustration at not being in the play-off, but admitted it “just wasn’t meant to be”.

According to the European Tour website, he said: “You never know when you’re going to get the chance to win a WGC event again. This is the first chance I’ve had of winning.

“I can’t believe that I’m not at least in the play-off – I’ve played good enough, thought I handled the situation pretty well. Guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

“You don’t get many opportunities to win WGC events and I feel like I’ve thrown a really good opportunity away. So I’m pretty upset, definitely angry.”

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