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Hanson leads, but Mickelson looms
Peter Hanson holds a one-shot lead in the Masters over Phil Mickelson, who is looking for his fourth win in the event.
The Washington Post
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Phil Mickelson has risen on a Sunday morning here, drawn in his first breath of the day, and all but smelled the hem of a green jacket waiting for him as the light finally fades over Augusta National Golf Club. Nowhere is he more comfortable. Nowhere is he more confident. Nowhere does he relish every shot, every stride, than he does right here.
For Peter Hanson, such notions and feelings are dreams. "It's a new situation to me," he said Saturday. He has played the Masters once before, a year ago. By Friday afternoon, he was rearranging his flights, heading home. He missed the cut.
But after a typically frenzied Saturday at the Masters sorted itself out — and that took some doing, because at least seven different players had, at one point, at least a share of the lead — that's who was left. Mickelson, the three-time Masters champion, shot a third-round 66 to get to 8 under for the tournament. He will chase Hanson, the Swede, who has only once finished in the top 10 at a major but who posted a sterling 65 Saturday to get to 9-under 207.
It left them in two decidedly different places: comfort and consternation.
"It's going to be tough," Hanson said. "I've been up on the leaderboard a few times, but I've never led in anything like this."
How to spend those morning hours? What to eat for breakfast? How to change your routine? Mickelson knows it all. His Saturday — in which he opened with nine straight pars, then shot a Mickelson-esque 30 on the back — only means something if he follows it Sunday.
"As great and as fun a round as this was," he said, "it just makes it possible to have something really special tomorrow."
They are not the only two who have the chance to win, and at various points Saturday, it was impossible to discern a favorite. The cast of characters who held at least a share of the lead Saturday, in order of appearance: Seattle native Fred Couples, Jason Dufner, Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Mickelson and Hanson. By Saturday's end, eight players were within five shots of Hanson's lead, theoretically with excellent opportunities. Oosthuizen's 69 left him two back at 7 under, Watson's 70 put him another shot back, Kuchar's 70 a shot after that.
Couples, at 52 the oldest player atop the leaderboard going into the weekend at Augusta, bogeyed his first two holes and tried to stay in the game. He shot a 75 and was seven shots behind.
"In the back of your mind," Watson said, "you know it's doable."
Yet there was one looming figure, only one player in the top 10 who has won here before. When dawn breaks Sunday, Mickelson will serve as the dominant presence.
"You only have to look at the way Phil has won some of his majors," said three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, in the group at 4 under. "You've got to take on golf shots. Fortune favors the brave, at times, here."
At Augusta, there is none braver, none bolder than Mickelson. On Thursday, he was 4 over through 10 holes, coming off a triple bogey, and the week could have been lost. Instead, he salvaged it, grinding out a 74. When putts didn't fall on the front side Saturday, he shrugged it off, and used birdies at 10 and 12 to pull within two of the lead, then shared by Kuchar and Oosthuizen.
No hole at Augusta is better suited for Mickelson than the dogleg left, par-5 13th. After a splendid drive, he had 206 yards to the flag. His crisp 6-iron left him 35 feet left of the flag for eagle, and a share of the lead.
"I've hit that putt so many times," he said.
He knew, then, to give it a little extra up the hill. He knew, too, that it would come back right, just a hair. When it settled gently over the lip, the roar told Hanson in the group ahead — indeed, it told everyone on the grounds — what was up. For the first time, Mickelson shared the lead.
"The crowds are so much behind Phil," Hanson said. Yet the 34-year-old Swede stood steadfast. He birdied 14 and 15, then made a 40-foot birdie putt on 17 to get to 8 under, alone in the lead. At 18, he blistered a 207-yard 6-iron up the hill to a foot, setting up the birdie that earned him a standing ovation.
"It's very difficult to try to follow those kind of birdies," Mickelson said, "when you're watching it right in front of you."
Yet Mickelson did.
|After three rounds at Augusta National, par 72|