Mickelson on the charge

2010-04-11 10:24
Phil Mickleson
Phil Mickelson unleashed back-to-back eagles in the third round of the Masters on Saturday to all-but reel in runaway leader Lee Westwood and set up a thrilling finale.

The 39-year-old American's two master-strokes en route to a five-under 67 were the crown jewels on a day of breath-taking shot-making that electrified the Augusta National crowds.

When the dust had settled, Westwood led the tournament at 12-under par 204 after carding a 68 with Mickelson one back after a 67.
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, saw his campaign for a fifth Masters green jacket and 15th major title lose some momentum as he had to settle for a 70 that left him tied for third with playing partner K.J. Choi of South Korea (70) four strokes off the lead.

Westwood, the 36-year-old Englishman and European number one, was coasting along four clear of playing partner Ian Poulter and five ahead of Mickelson as he walked off the 10th green, only for the 39-year-old American to produce two moments of Masters magic.

He first sunk a seven-footer to grab his second eagle of the tournament at the par-five 13th, the closing leg of the Amen Corner trilogy.
Minutes later, he lit up Augusta National by holing his 139-yard second shot at the tough, par-four 14th.

It was just the third time in Masters history that twin eagles had been recorded and with Westwood promptly dropping a shot at the par-three 12th, Mickelson was joint leader at 11-under.

Incredibly, Mickelson came within three inches of making it an unprecedented three eagles in three holes as his pitch to the par-five 15th came up just short. He tapped in to lead the tournament at 12 under.

A clearly rattled Westwood then overhit his own approach to 13, although he managed to save his par.

Joining in the fun was crowd favourite Freddie Couples, who birdied the 14th and then eagled the 15th to move up into third place at eight-under, although he was to drop one at the last for a 68 and sole possession of fifth at seven-under.

Mickelson then bogeyed the 17th and Westwood birdied the 15th as the lead changed hands a final time.

"The bounces seemed to pay off, but you don't plan on balls like that one on 14 going in," Mickelson said.

"I haven't played this well in a long time and I am looking forward to it. Today has been a good day and I am excited about Sunday."
Westwood said he had not been affected by the huge roars that swept over Augusta when Mickelson made his eagles.

"I felt very calm out there and confident in what I was doing. Every aspect of my game felt good," he said.

"I've found the way to play the golf course and I see no reason to veer away from that." "I can only control what I am doing, not what Phil's doing." Woods, meanwhile, was at odds with his game and cursing himself for most of the day.

Opening rounds of 68 and 70 had left him ideally placed two shots off behind joint leaders Westwood and Poulter and helped him get the focus back on his golf game.

He started brightly with a 15-foot par for birdie at the first and followed up with an 18-footer at the third to get to eight under.
But he again dropped a shot at the fourth where he pulled his tee-shot into the left-hand bunker.

Engulfed for five months by a humiliating sex scandal that also brought into question his on-course behavior, Woods had pledged to clean up his act on both counts.

But that appeared to go by the board when he pulled his tee-shot at the par-three sixth provoking from him a "Tiger Woods - you suck - goddamn it!" outburst.

He then over-cooked his uphill 20-footer and missed the 12-footer back for another bogey leaving him at six-under, four shots off the lead.

Worse was to follow at the seventh where an errant tee shot had him grimacing and a three-putt meant Woods had endured three bogeys in four holes.

Woods steadied his ship down the back nine though and three birdies in a row from the 13th and a closing birdie at 18 salvaged his round and kept his hopes alive of matching Ben Hogan's feat of winning the Masters in his season opener.

"I was fighting it all day - really struggled with the pace of the greens and fighting my swing, It was a tough day," he said.

"As it is I am only four back so a good round tomorrow and you never know. The birdie at the last was nice.

"The guys were running away from me and I was seven back, but I am back in the ball game and only four back." Also staying in the hunt for Sunday were a trio on six under - American young guns Hunter Mahan (68) and Ricky Barnes (72) along with England's Poulter (74).

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