Mickelson, who had initially brushed Sharma off as media when the Indian tried to say “hello” to him on the practice putting green before round three, was full of praise of the young Indian.
“I saw how well he struck the golf ball. He hit a beautiful tee shot on 1, and you can tell he can really play. I saw some of the putts, some of the highlights with the putter. I know he's a very talented player, and I believe he's leading the Order of Merit on the European Tour, so I know what a great player Mr Sharma is. I probably shouldn't say that, he's 26 years younger than me!” said Mickelson, who pipped reigning FedExCup No. 1 Justin Thomas with a par on the first sudden-death playoff hole to win the WGC-Mexico Championship.
As Sharma boarded the long flight home to Delhi, the letdown was greatly reduced when he received a phone call from Augusta National Golf Club, informing him that he was the recipient of a special invitation to play in the Masters Tournament. It will be his Major debut.
He tweeted: “I am deeply honoured to be found worthy of invitation by the Masters Committee. It's a dream come true. My gratitude.”
Whatever happens come the Masters weeks, amidst the blooming azaleas and dogwoods at August National, Sharma’s continued rise in the game, as with success shown by fellow Asians, Li Haotong of China and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, only bode well for the game in Asia and around the world.
He will certainly cherish the drive along Magnolia Lane, and the road to stardom and the PGA TOUR could just be around the next turn. This could truly be a memorable spring for Sharma and Asian golf.
Chuah Choo Chiang is Senior Director, Communications of the PGA TOUR and is based at TPC Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.