April 7, 2012
Hanson soon to have his Phil of Mickelson
By IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency
It would be bad form to point out that Phil Mickelson’s charge in the third round of the Masters on Saturday was foretold here before he even teed off.
Mickelson, who started his day in a tie for 11th place, finished one shot off the lead held by Swede Peter Hanson.
Mickelson, who was as high as four over in Thursday’s opening round, started Saturday in the conservative fashion that has characterized this year’s proceedings at Augusta, a safe, but ineffective strategy if he planned to get back in this thing.
Apparently, he came to that realization as he made the turn at even par and birdied two of his next three holes.
One of the reasons that Mickelson seemed primed for a third round charge was his renowned short game, which hit its pinnacle with a 25-foot putt for eagle on 13 and an outstanding flop shot to four feet on 15, which he birdied.
Mickelson then sent his approach shot to 20 feet on 18 and sunk it for his third birdie in as many days there to finish off a 30 on the back nine and a 66 on the day.
All of the accolades for Mickelson’s charge is not to downplay the laser approaches and precise putting displayed by Swede Peter Hanson, who in just his second Masters came in with a 65.
With Hanson at nine-under, similar performances by both men will be necessary if either of them are to slip the green jacket over their shoulders on Sunday afternoon and not only because of the crowd forming just behind them.
Hanson and Mickelson need only look at what happened to the second round leaders on Saturday.
Fred Couples, 52, doesn’t look like Tom Watson at the 2009 British Open anymore after posting bogeys on his first two holes and a double bogey on five before finishing three over on the day.
His co-leader from Friday, Jason Dufner birdied his second hole Saturday, but posted bogeys on four, six and 10 before his next birdie on 12. He bogeyed 18 to also finish three over on the day.
Sergio Garcia, tied for third on Friday night, had five bogeys in his first 10 holes, and wound up three over, while Rory McIlroy, also tied for third Friday, had two double bogeys and three bogeys on his first 11 holes for a five-over score on the day.
On moving day, the leaders jammed it into reverse to allow Hanson and Mickelson their respective charges at the top of the leaderboard and now they need similar performances, knowing the danger out on Augusta when you’re in the pressure cooker.
After seeing what happened to the leaders, they’re also cognizant from their Saturday experiences that they’re now the hunted and not the hunters, with some hungry dogs biting at their heels.
PHIL’S IN FAMILIAR TERRITORY
In all four of Mickelson’s major victories, he’s played in the final pairing ... Eight players held or shared the lead Saturday ... Some joker said there are hotdogs as long as the one-foot putt missed by I.K. Kim on the 72nd hole at last week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major on the LPGA Tour. That would also apply to Lee Westwood’s horseshoe around the cup to bogey the ninth on Saturday ... Speaking of Westwood, one of several “best players never to win a major” these days, a discussion with former LPGA Tour player Sandra Post put that term and the over-analysis of the players who have it attached to them into perspective. “There’s only four majors a year,” said Post. In other words, do the math when figuring out why standout players haven’t won one, instead of second-guessing the players,
HIGH FIVES FOR TIGER
Before arriving at Augusta National, Tiger Woods posted birdie or better on 62.75% of the par fives he’d played, which was the best on the PGA Tour. This week, Woods is one for 12 in birdies on par fives, going into the final round ... Woods himself has said several times this weekend that he’s reverting back to old habits, so is that a reason to fire a coach, as some have suggested after Sean Foley was the resident genius just a few days ago with wins by not only Woods, but other Foley clients such as Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose? The T-Nation is sounding like fickle Leaf fans and it’s fair to say the immortal image they have of their man is more destructive to him than the people who are honest and recognize that he is, indeed, human. It’s shaping up to be a great finish Sunday and that should move the needle, at least for golf fans, if not Tiger fans ... With all the talk about the gap growing between rich and poor, the elimination of the middle class and the Occupy movement, we’re worried about an IBM executive getting into an exclusive club such as Augusta? We must be in paradise if that’s the most important women’s or social issue today. Just saying.