AUGUSTA, Ga. – Five things you need to know from the third round of the 76th Masters:
1. WHAT JUST HAPPENED? That question was hard to answer at times Saturday during a wild third round at Augusta National. Peter Hanson holds a one-shot lead with only 18 holes to play. The big Swede made birdies on the last two holes – and four total on the back nine – to post 9-under 207, one clear of Phil Mickelson (66), with whom he played during the first two rounds.
“I just tried to do the boring stuff,” said Hanson, who is ranked 25th in the world ranking. “It was just one of those rounds that turned into a great round.”
Hanson and Mickelson’s hot rounds were more than enough to overtake the two co-leaders, Jason Dufner and 52-year-old Fred Couples. They both shot 75 to drop into a tie for 11th, seven shots back.
“My only excuses,” Couples said, “were some of the swings that I made.”
Hanson, 34, who accepted special temporary membership on the PGA Tour this season, posted two top-5 finishes in World Golf Championship events this season, with a quarterfinal loss at the Match Play and a T-4 at Doral. A four-time winner in Europe, he also tied for second earlier this season in a PGA European Tour event in Qatar.
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2. LEFTY’S LEFT HOOK: With Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy out of contention, Phil Mickelson took center stage once again at Augusta.
During a back-nine 30, Mickelson eagled the par-5 13th, executed a high-risk flop shot on 15 that led to a birdie and poured in a 20-foot birdie putt on the last – his third consecutive birdie on the difficult 18th – to move into the final pairing with Peter Hanson.
Of Mickelson’s heroics, Hanson said: “It was one of those special kind of Masters moments that I’ve watched on TV so many times.”
Mickelson’s 66 was his lowest round at Augusta National since he shot 65 in 1996.
“I just feel really confident in the way I’ve been playing and the way I’ve been putting and in this setting and on this golf course,” Mickelson said. “I love it here, and I love nothing more than being in the last group on Sunday at the Masters. It’s the greatest thing in professional golf.”
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3. RORY’S COLLAPSE: One year after a crushing collapse at Augusta, Rory McIlroy came unglued again during a third-round 77 that dropped him out of contention.
McIlroy, who entered the final round only one shot off the lead, turned in 6-over 42. Now in a tie for 27th, at 1-over 217, McIlroy needs a major rally on Sunday to continue a streak of 12 consecutive worldwide finishes inside the top 11.
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4. MORE OF THE SAME: A late-night practice session with Sean Foley couldn’t correct all that has gone wrong with Tiger Woods’ long game.
The former World No. 1, who stumbled to a 75 in the second round, continued to play waywardly on Saturday on his way to a 72.
“I was so close to putting it together today,” Woods said. “I just didn’t take care of the opportunities when I had them.”
That includes his work on the par 5s, where Woods is only 1 under par in 12 holes played. Saturday was Woods’ fourth career round at the Masters without a birdie on a par 5.
“It’s so frustrating because I’m so close to putting it together,” he said. “I’m so close to turning it around. I would just hit a couple of good shots in a row and compound the problem with a bad shot in the wrong spot.”
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5. WESTY WATCH: For Lee Westwood, a double-bogey finish Friday seemed to linger into the third round, where he went from one back to five behind after a Saturday 72.
“I just didn’t quite have it today,” the Englishman said.
Searching for his first major championship, Westwood seemed poised to take the lead at the halfway mark before he double-bogeyed the 18th hole Friday. On Saturday, he mixed four birdies with four bogeys to stall on the leaderboard.