Signs point to thrilling Masters finish

Peter Hanson of Sweden acknowledges the gallery after completing the third round of the Masters at...

Peter Hanson of Sweden acknowledges the gallery after completing the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Saturday. Hanson has a one-stroke lead entering Sunday's final round. (GETTY IMAGES)

Jon McCarthy , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:40 PM ET

It’s a countdown to a Sunday explosion at the Masters. That’s the impression the leaderboard gave at the end of moving day at Augusta National.

Leader Peter Hanson’s 65 probably had people dancing in the streets in Sweden, but here in Augusta the story of the day was Phil Mickelson.

The three-time Masters champion went on a classic charge that reminded everyone why Augusta National is the most exciting stage in golf.

Mickelson made four birdies and an eagle coming in and his 30 on the back nine is one off the Masters record.

He sits at eight-under par heading into the final round, one back of leader Hanson.

Mickelson summarized his back nine very succinctly.

“It was awesome,” he said.

After such an exhilarating round, Mickelson was surprisingly calm.

“It’s still Saturday, and you’re going to have to play some really good golf and you’re going to have to have some good things happen on Sunday,” he said. “That’s when it gets exciting.”

For a time on Thursday it didn’t look like an exciting week was in the cards. After 10 holes of his first round, he was four-over par — a point that was brought up to Mickelson Saturday evening.

“That was a long time ago,” Mickelson said.

“Because I didn’t let the round slide (on Thursday), I salvaged a couple of birdies coming in, I left myself in a position where if I did get hot I could move up the leaderboard, which is exactly what happened the last two days.”

Tournament leader Hanson played with Mickelson Thursday and Friday and said he used the popular left-hander for inspiration.

“The crowds are so much behind Phil and they love him, and I understand why,” Hanson said.

“I tried to stay pretty close to him the first couple of days and feed off it a little bit.”

On Saturday, he said he continued to feed off Mickelson, especially when the left-hander made an eagle at the 13th.

“Definitely, that was one of those Masters’ moments that I’ve been watching so many times TV-wise,” he said. “You hear the crowd going wild when he made the eagle. It kind of helped me on 14.”

Mickelson and Hanson will play together in the final group Sunday.

Teeing off just ahead of them will be 2010 British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen and big-hitter Bubba Watson who sit at seven-under and six-under respectively.

The star-studded leaderboard has the golf world expecting final-round fireworks at Augusta.

With names such as Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood all in the top 10 the possibility of a big-name winner is high.

Mickelson said the conditions on Saturday were perfect for scoring — very little wind, soft greens, and pins that you could get to.

Things will be different at Augusta on Sunday.

They always are.


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