25 February 2019: Only 38 golfers have ever won 20 or more titles on the PGA TOUR. Dustin Johnson(-21) became that 38th man with a second straight 66 to win the WGC Mexico Championship by a five-stroke margin over Rory McIlroy(-16). Shubhankar Sharma ended the week in a blaze as he went out all guns firing on Sunday. The 21-year-old tried every trick in his book to force his way up the order, but the course got the better of him on the day. Shubhankar finished T60 at 8-over 292.
Johnson joined the elite company of Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson and Johnny Miller as the only men to have notched up 20 titles before turning 35. The American will move to second in the rankings behind Justin Rose and if the two men do not play this week as planned will regain the top ranking next Monday.
“This gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year,” said Johnson. Victory in Mexico marked his sixth WGC title and he remains the only golfer to have won all four WGC events. A 20th career PGA TOUR victory also means that Johnson will now become a lifelong member of the TOUR.
“It’s been a little bit since I’ve been in the lead with this kind of field and this calibre of players. I know Rory’s playing really well, he was not too far behind me, so I definitely felt some nerves there at the beginning of the day.
“I made some really good par saves early in the round on the front nine and that kind of gave me the momentum. I knew I was still swinging it well, I just had to give myself some chances and turned it on on the back nine.”
McIlroy pushed Johnson all the way to the end, but he was chasing in vain. Johnson matched his younger rival stroke for stroke as the two men came home blazing a trail of birdies. Both men took just 31 strokes each on the final nine to make for some spectacular Sunday golf. It was a fourth straight top-5 finish for McIlroy, the longest stretch of his career so far.
“It was good. Some weeks you play well and someone just plays better and that’s what DJ did this week. When DJ has got a four-shot lead and goes out and shoots five under par, he’s not going to lose,” said McIlroy.
“My game is right there, I’m really happy with everything. I’ve just got to stay patient, look at the positives and just keep persisting, putting myself in positions and sooner or later it’ll go my way.”
Kiradech Aphibarnrat made a brilliant run on Sunday too. He finished with three straight birdies to lock up a tie for third with Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, who were all at 11-under 273. Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Smith and Sergio Garcia capped their week in Mexico with matching scores of 70 to finish T6.
PGA TOUR Notes – Shubhankar Sharma
In his final round at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, Shubhankar Sharma hit 9 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens in regulation, finishing at 8 over for the tournament.
Sharma got a double bogey on the 450-yard par-4 10th, getting on the green in 4 and two putting, moving Sharma to 2 over for the round.
On the 622-yard par-5 11th hole, Sharma reached the green in 3 and sunk a 14-foot putt for birdie. This moved Sharma to 1 over for the round.
On the 406-yard par-4 12th, Sharma had a bogey after hitting the green in 3 and two putting, moving Sharma to 2 over for the round.
At the 225-yard par-3 13th, Sharma hit a tee shot 221 yards at the green, setting himself up for the 9-foot putt for birdie. This moved Sharma to 1 over for the round.
Sharma got a bogey on the 506-yard par-4 fourth, getting on the green in 2 and two putting, moving Sharma to 1 over for the round.
On the 625-yard par-5 sixth, Sharma got on the green in 3 and two-putt for double bogey, bringing Sharma to 3 over for the round.
At the 382-yard par-4 ninth, Sharma got on in 2 and missed his par putt from 6 feet, finishing with a 3-putt bogey. This moved Sharma to 4 over for the round.
Despite a bogey at the 17th hole, Justin Thomas was still good enough for a spectacular 62, helping himself into a ninth-place finish, gaining 28 spots on the leaderboard.
Tiger Woods secured a top 10 finish with a 69 on Sunday, shortening his odds considerably with the Masters only a few weeks away. He was joined in T10 by Keegan Bradley, Joost Luiten and David Lipsky. The latter two will have to make a long haul connection to reach Muscat for next week’s Oman Open, but the result and its cheque will help them stay energised.
"I'm officially excited to get off Poa!"
—@TigerWoods shares his thoughts on a tough putting week and takes us through his prep plan for the Florida swing (which involves putting some weight back on). pic.twitter.com/Tg1cZRMg9j
— GOLFTV (@GOLFTV) February 24, 2019
After dealing in the 70s all week, Satoshi Kodaira finished on a high with a solid 64 on Sunday. But that was still only good enough for a T51.
Shubhankar will join SSP Chawrasia and Gaganjeet Bhullar in Muscat for the Oman Open on the European Tour this week.