Indian golfer and overnight leader Shubhankar Sharma stumbled in the fourth and final round as he carded a three-over 74 to finish tied ninth in the USD 10 million World Golf Championships being held in Mexico on Sunday. The 21-year-old, who held a two-stroke lead coming into the final round, bogeyed five holes on the fifth, 13th, 14th, 17th, 18th as he birdied the 12th and 16th holes for a 74 at the Club de Golf Chapultepec. World No.75 Shubhankar, making his debut appearance in the World Golf Championships, was short on experience and that finally took a toll on him as he went through a tough back-nine.
Shubhankar's four-day total of 10-under 274 (65-66-69-74) was six shots behind world No.34 Phil Mickelson (five-under 66) and No.3 Justin Thomas (64) after 72 holes of regulation play.
The likes of Arjun Atwal and Anirban Lahiri lauded the young Indian golfer for his superlative effort.
"It's amazing to see what he's doing at the age of 21. I think I won my first European Tour tournament when I was 28 so what he's doing has been great. I kind of called it a few years ago when I said it was a matter of time before the younger Indians get better and better. The game is so young now and he's proving me right. I said that about five or six years ago, that they would start winning at an earlier age and Shubhankar is doing just that. He's definitely proven he can win," said Atwal, the first Indian winner on the PGA TOUR.
"I've been a professional golfer for 10 years now, and I know where he comes from and where he comes from is not very different to where I've come from. He doesn't care the consequences or magnitude of a win. He's just playing golf, and he knows what he's doing. It's a treat for me and every golf fan, not just in India but everywhere. That's the beauty of it, he is just playing golf. When you're young, you just want to play. That's the beauty of youth. He's an advertisement of a kid who just loves playing golf," said Lahiri.
"There's no doubt that he will be playing on the PGA TOUR, whether it's tomorrow, next week or next month. There's no trace of doubt that we'll have more Indians playing at the highest stage very soon," he added.
The American pair took the game to the play-off where five-time major winner Mickelson prevailed after playing a par effort on the par-three 17th hole, while Thomas missed the putt for the par.
Tyrrell Hatton and Rafa Cabrera Bello scored 67 each in the final round to finish tied third with identical totals of 15-under 269.
Left-hander Mickelson, 47, earned USD 1.7 million in prize money, an exemption onto the PGA Tour through the 2020-21 season, 550 FedExCup points. Apart from this, he will also get an automatic berth in almost every major championship including The Players Championship this season.
Mickelson, who won a title after British Open triumph in 2013, said: "To have the belief that I was going to get there and finally break through and do it feels incredible. I believe that more is to come."