2007 Masters: Nothing goes right for Mickelson

Augusta, Ga. | Amy Mickelson stood by the walkway to the eighth tee Sunday, motioning to the rest of the Mickelson clan who were standing nearby.

“C’mon, let’s cheer,” she urged, as her husband was leaving the seventh green.

Phil Mickelson strode forward, heard the exhortations, then pulled Amy under the ropes. They walked with arms around each other for a few yards until Phil had to veer off toward the tee. Clearly he appreciated – and needed – the support.

Mickelson was 9 over par at the time. Remarkably, even after opening with a triple-bogey 7, he was still in the hunt, just six shots behind leader Tiger Woods with 11 holes to play. Stranger things already had happened at this 71st Masters.

But the cheerleading didn’t have the desired effect.

Mickelson drove into the fairway bunker at No. 8, resulting in a bogey that effectively ended any hope of defending his Masters title.

Mickelson tied for 24th at 11-over 299 (76-73-73-77), his worst Master’s performance since 1993 (T-34). He was accumulative 10 over on the front side, done in by erratic driving – perhaps retribution from the golf gods after the way he raved about his newfound confidence on the tee when he won at Pebble Beach in February.

Mickelson hit 28 of 56 fairways at Augusta; only Jose Maria Olazabal (a habitually poor driver) and Fred Couples (who could barely walk because of back problems) were worse. When he won here last year, Mickelson hit 35 fairways and reached 50 of 72 greens in regulation.

This year he hit only 36 greens.

Swing coach Rick Smith said Mickelson has tried to be more creative with his driving this season, and the experimentation sometimes has led to difficulties controlling his draws. Smith said Mickelson has had synchronization problems with the driver, leading to hooks and blocks.

Mickelson had been on the grounds at Augusta National for 11 days, arriving March 29 to begin preparations with Smith and short-game guru Dave Pelz. Much of it went for naught, Smith said, because “the one thing you can’t predict is the wind. The wind made it such a debacle. You bring that factor into the equation, you’ve got something beyond diabolical.

“You can prepare, but you still have to execute. You also have to be able to react to the conditions. You have to be able to get some momentum, and that was hard this week. You can have the greatest short game, but with conditions like this it’s beyond nerve. Everything’s defensive.”

Mickelson abandoned his much publicized two-driver strategy after Friday’s round.

“When it got windy, I didn’t want to get the ball up in the air (with the Callaway FT-i),” said Mickelson, who went solely with a Callaway FT-5 driver on the weekend.

“He needed to go with the driver he could work the ball with,” Smith said.

Even after the triple to open Round 4, Mickelson said he believed he had a chance to climb into the mix if he could get to even for the round by the turn. There were birdies and eagles to be had, he said, “but

I just wasn’t one of the guys doing it.”

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