Mickelson awaits as McIlroy falls apart

Home favourite looks poised to pose in fourth Green Jacket after young pretender finds demons chasing him around the National course again


The demons arrived a day early for Rory McIlroy in Georgia. But for Phil Mickelson the Masters remains his personal heaven.

Peter Hanson has the onerous mission of denying America's favourite left-hander today. The Swede – a Ryder Cup player in name, but a vastly underrated ball-striker – shot a best-of-the-week 65 to stand at nine-under, but his remarkable figures sunk into the footnotes when put alongside Mickelson's heroics on this most famous of back nines.

The National and Mickelson are made for each other and he provided emphatic proof with an inward 30. The birdie on the last for a 66 was vintage Phil – and vintage Augusta as well. Seemingly with a big ask to make his par, Mickelson somehow turned it over and coerced it up to the top level of the green.

The 12-foot putt located the hole – of course it did – and the cheers resounded as loudly as they ever have on a Saturday here. It would take a fool, or maybe a Scandinavian, not to believe a fourth Green Jacket in nine years is not on order.

Think of that: four in nine. That matches the percentage return of Tiger Woods in his pomp. What were they all saying about the "Rory and Tiger Show"? It barely makes it on to golf's lunchtime schedule when Mickelson, the great entertainer, is in primetime.

What a frenetic day it was. Never mind moving day, there are quantum physicists who would have been stunned by the speed of its comings and goings. Augusta truly writes its own script, turning hero into victim and back again in the flash of a few irons. Who would have thought, for instance, that McIlroy, the boy whose final-round 80 last year touched so many hearts, would be back playing to the tune of violins?

Granted, this 77 was nowhere near as dramatic as his very public tear-show of 12 months ago; but it did qualify as a major-wrecker. He is 10 behind, with 26 players in front.

McIlroy double-bogeyed the first, as he did on the first day, when he was denied a drop in the squelchy stuff over the back by a referee. Last year, it was the back nine that did the snaring; this time the Augusta trap snapped shut early.

McIlroy was six-over for the front half – a 43 – and although he held it together valiantly enough on the back nine to stick at two-over, the damage was done. The sight of him hugging Sergio Garcia, another casualty with a 75, to celebrate his birdie following the Ulsterman's birdie on the 12th said it all. It was a ray of sunshine in a morass of gloom.

The achievement of Hanson should not be undervalued, however tempting it was to look at Mickelson and see him reclad in rich green. He bogeyed the first, but from there was simply magnificent, his putter combining with his usual precision of wood and iron to conjure eight birdies in 17 holes. Hanson stiffed it at the last with a shot which summed up his consummate control. On another day his spectacular progress would have been enough to have people talking about the possibility of Sweden's first major. Mickelson ensured, however, that the narrative focused on his love affair with the course which has an inexhaustible desire for drama.

Where to start with the fireworks let off by the Californian, who began with a highly mediocre 74? Maybe with the wood on the second through a pair of trees which might as well have been hugging. After taking a penalty, a bogey appeared inevitable. To anyone but him it did. That magic through the pines, and then a chip and a putt rescued him the par. The stage was set, although Mickelson took his time to storm to the centre.

Birdie on the 10th, birdie on the 12th, then an eagle on the 13th courtesy of a 30-foot putt. It was that par five where he played that wonder shot, again through a pair of rain-sharing pines, which did for Lee Westwood two years ago. Two holes later the wand was out again, although this time it was a trademark flop on to the 15th green which led to a birdie.

By the time Mickelson was receiving his ovation, Tiger Woods was tucked up in bed. His 72 was hardly what he expected as he dug deep for a rousing charge from three-over. He is 12 behind and more concerned about his PR image. He felt obliged to apologise for the swearing and club-throwing. Respect for doing so, but the golf won't be so easily fixed.

Woods will not be a part of the final-day party which could yet include a few more European Tour favourites than Hanson. One behind Mickelson in third stands the 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen after his 69, and Bubba Watson on six-under is another left-handed American who will have his backers. Westwood fought his ever-disobedient putter for a level-par 72 to allow himself a faint sniff. Padraig Harrington finished with five birdies in the last six holes to nudge himself into the picture for a fourth major. His late rally shows what is possible in the dénouement of this supreme golfing amphitheatre. Mickelson, however, will sense this better than anyone.



Peter Hanson (Swe) 68 74 65


Phil Mickelson (US) 74 68 66


Luis Oosthuizen (SA) 68 72 69


Bubba Watson (US) 69 71 70


Matt Kuchar (US) 71 70 70


Hunter Mahan (US) 72 72 68

Henrik Stenson (Swe) 71 71 70

Padraig Harrington (Irl) 71 73 68

Lee Westwood (GB) 67 73 72


Paul Lawrie (GB) 69 72 72


Nick Watney (US) 71 71 72

Francesco Molinari (It) 69 75 70

Fredrik Jacobson (Swe) 76 68 70

Sean O'Hair (US) 73 70 71

Ian Poulter (GB 72 72 70

Ben Crane (US) 69 73 72

Jason Dufner (US) 69 70 75

Fred Couples (US) 72 67 75


Jim Furyk (US) 70 73 72

Bae Sang-moon (S Kor) 75 71 69

Jonathan Byrd (US) 72 71 72

Brandt Snedeker (US) 72 75 68

Sergio Garcia (Sp) 72 68 75


Justin Rose (GB) 72 72 72

Webb Simpson (US) 72 74 70

Charles Howell III (US) 72 70 74


Hideki Matsuyama* (Japan) 71 74 72

Scott Stallings (US) 70 77 70

Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 74 72 71

Miguel Angel Jimenez (Sp) 69 72 76

Rory McIlroy (GB) 71 69 77


Kevin Na (US) 71 75 72

Adam Scott (Aus) 75 70 73

Graeme McDowell (GB) 75 72 71

Kevin Chappell (US) 71 76 71

Y E Yang (S Kor) 73 70 75

Vijay Singh (Fiji) 70 72 76


Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 71 71 77

Tiger Woods (US) 72 75 72

Zach Johnson 70 74 75


Steve Stricker (US) 71 77 72

Angel Cabrera (Arg) 71 78 71

Rickie Fowler (US) 74 74 72

David Toms ( US) 73 73 74


Keegan Bradley (US) 71 77 73

Ross Fisher (GB) 71 77 73

Anders Hansen (Den) 76 72 73


Bill Haas (US) 72 74 76

Charl Schwartzel (SA) 72 75 75

Martin Laird (GB) 76 72 74

Martin Kaymer (Ger) 72 75 75


Thomas Bjorn (Den) 73 76 74

Bo van Pelt (US) 73 75 75,

Luke Donald (GB) 75 73 75

Patrick Cantlay* (US) 71 78 74

Scott Verplank (US) 73 75 75


Robert Karlsson (Swe) 74 74 77

Trevor Immelman (SA) 78 71 76

Gonzalo F'dez-Castano (Sp) 74 75 76

Edoardo Molinari (It) 75 74 76


Kelly Kraft (US) 74 75 77


Stewart Cink (US) 71 75 81


Gary Woodland (US) 73 70 85

* amateur

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat