2003 Masters: Mickelson stuck in third at Masters

Augusta, Ga. | It’s been a year of threes for Phil Mickelson.

Three as in his third child being born three weeks before Masters Sunday. And three as in his third third-place finish in a row at Augusta National.

It’s a good news-bad news scenario that begs the question: Why is Mickelson so fortunate on one level and so frustrated on another?

But that kind of doubt never seems to pop into Mickelson’s mind. Only minutes after a closing 68 left him two shots behind Mike Weir and Len Mattiace, he spoke with a sense of calm confidence about yet another near miss.

“I played well today,” Mickelson said. “I was 3 under on the back, and I shot what I think was my best Sunday round at Augusta, and it wasn’t playing easy. I really am very happy with it. Heading into today, I thought 68 could do it, and that’s what I shot. But two guys ran away with it, and I can’t control what they did out there. And I can’t worry about whether it was enough or not.

“Heading into this week, I was very calm, and I felt very ready to play well. And I am feeling very comfortable going into the major championships now. I know that if I just go out and play that I am going to get my shots on Sunday.”

Many doubted that Mickelson would get his shot at Augusta, as he came into the Masters after a four-week layoff and then a missed cut at the BellSouth Classic. By his own admission, he was not 100 percent.

Inaccuracy off the tee has plagued Mickelson in the past, and this Masters was no different. He finished tied for 47th in driving accuracy (30 of 56 for 53.57 percent) among the 49 players who made the cut. (Only amateur Ricky Barnes, at 25 of 56, was worse.)

Yet Mickelson still managed to finish seventh in greens-in-regulation, finding 47 of 72 (65.28 percent).

Most of the early tournament talk centered on Tiger Woods’ quest for his third green jacket and Ernie Els’ second-round 66. But the thinking in some circles was that coming in under the radar would benefit Mickelson, and he seemed to agree.

“There is some truth that it’s easier to prepare and be ready mentally when you don’t have as many distractions, as many questions to answer and as many autographs to sign,” he said.

“It’s easier to spend more time preparing on the range, on the putting green, without interruption. And that can often times lead to a player performing better.”

Mickelson did perform better at Augusta than many people expected for someone who has had so many other things occupying his mind and time. And he was looking forward to going back home for a couple of weeks to spend time with his ever-growing family.

“We’re still adjusting,” he said, referring to life with his new baby, a boy named Evan Samuel.

It also seems he still is adjusting to third-place finishes at Augusta. Not that he likes them all that much.

“But they are better than finishing fourth,” he said.

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