USGA CHAMPIONS
Mickelson, Wie End Long Victory Droughts in Dramatic Fashion March 5, 2018 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By David Shefter, USGA

Until this past weekend's win in Singapore, Michelle Wie had not hoisted a trophy since her 2014 U.S. Women's Open triumph at Pinehurst. (USGA/John Mummert)

Perhaps it was appropriate that two long victory droughts ended on the first Sunday in March, a month associated with the coming of spring and a time when the golf world begins to turn its attention to major championships.

Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson and 2014 U.S. Women’s Open winner Michelle Wie had not entered the winner’s circle since claiming major titles in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

For Mickelson, 47, it was the longest drought of his hall-of-fame career, a span that covered 97 tournaments. His last victory came when he shot a final-round 65 at Muirfield in the 2013 Open Championship.

On Sunday, Mickelson, the 1990 U.S. Amateur champion, needed one playoff hole to defeat Justin Thomas to win the WGC-Mexico Championship at Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City.

Halfway around the globe in Singapore, Wie, 28, holed a 35-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to earn a one-stroke victory in the HSBC Champions for her first title since holding off Stacy Lewis in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.

Both had been building for this moment. Mickelson closed the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing with three consecutive top-six finishes, including a tie for second in the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Meanwhile, Wie had finished 11th in her two previous LPGA Tour starts this year.

“I can't put into words how much this means to me,” said Mickelson. “I knew it was going to be soon – I’ve been playing too well for it not to be. But you just never know until it happens.”

And it came against Thomas, who had holed out for an eagle from 119 yards on the par-4 18th hole to post 16-under 268. Just a week prior, Thomas, the defending player of the year, won the Honda Classic in a playoff for his eighth PGA Tour victory.

But Mickelson, playing in the final pairing, birdied Nos. 15 and 16 to reach 16 under and closed with a pair of two-putt pars to force the playoff. Then his birdie putt on the first playoff hole, the par-3 17th, lipped out. Thomas, however, could not match as his par putt from 6 feet missed left.

In three months, Mickelson will head to Shinnecock Hills hoping to complete the career Grand Slam by winning the 118th U.S. Open. He was runner-up there in 2004 and tied for fourth in 1995.

Wie provided her own theatrics on a Sunday that saw a plethora of players in the mix, including two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Danielle Kang, 2006 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Jenny Shin, 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Minjee Lee and 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Lydia Ko.

The tournament appeared headed for a five-person playoff before Wie converted what she called the putt of her life. The birdie capped a final-round 7-under 65 for a 72-hole total of 17-under 271, one better than Shin, Brooke Henderson, Kang and Nelly Korda.

Since her 2014 triumph, Wie had struggled to find the form she had at Pinehurst, whether it was injuries or just on-course performance. Going into last year’s HSBC Champions, she was No. 179 in the Rolex Rankings. Now she’s No. 14.

“There have been moments where it was hard,” said Wie, who finished 105th on the LPGA Tour money list in 2016 before rebounding to No. 21 last season. “It was hard to keep going and to keep playing. My family believed in me relentlessly, and with that, I started to believe in myself.”

Perhaps this will be the start of a renaissance for both Wie and Mickelson.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.