Peter Hanson leads Masters

2012-04-08 08:11

Augusta - Sweden's Peter Hanson emerged as the third-round leader of the Masters at Augusta National on Saturday after a day of high drama and fluctuating fortunes.

Full scorecard at the Masters

The 34-year-old World No 25 produced golf of supreme quality to card a tournament-best seven-under 65 and stood at nine-under par, one stroke clear of fan favourite Phil Mickelson, who covered the back nine in six-under 30, one shy of the tournament record.

A stroke further back at seven under came South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen after he had a 69 while Bubba Watson of the United States was on six under after a 70.

Matt Kuchar (70) was on five under with four players - Hunter Mahan of the United States (68), Henrik Stenson of Sweden (70), Lee Westwood of England (72) and Padraig Harrington of Ireland (68) - all on four under.

On a day of perfect playing conditions, eight players shared the lead at different stages drawing huge roars of appreciation from the big galleries assembled for the occasion.

Tiger Woods fired a par 72 and, at three over, his chances of winning a fourth green jacket are doomed, standing 12 strokes off the pace.

Rory McIlroy, one back from the leaders at the start of the day, was stunned by two double-bogey sixes on the front nine as he went out in a jaw-dropping 42 that brought back dark memories of his closing 80 here last year.

He steadied the ship somewhat down the back nine but his total of 77 left him at two over and out of contention.

Hanson, who played with Mickelson in the first two rounds, is one of the quiet men of golf, but after bogeying the first he made all the right sounds as he rattled off eight birdies, including the last two holes, to leap up the leaderboard.

It is only the Ryder Cup player's second Masters, having missed the cut last year.

Asked what he would need to manage on Sunday he replied: "Emotions, of course. That's going to be the biggest thing.

"This is kind of a new situation to me, being in the spotlight like this, and playing the last group.

"So it's going to be about controlling my emotions and trying to be in the present and trying to play the same kind of golf that I've been doing today."

The 41-year-old Mickelson, though, was clearly the big story of the day for the Augusta National faithful who flocked to his side.

The three-time former winner in 2004, 2006 and 2010 started the day three strokes behind co-leaders Fred Couples and Jason Dufner and he got little going early on with nine straight pars down the front side.

But, similar to the Saturday round in 2010 when he last won the Masters, Mickelson fired on all cyclinders going round Amen Corner after the turn.

A birdie at 10, where he lost his ball in the first round on Thursday to slip to four over, was followed by a birdie at the par-three 12th and an eagle at the 13th, where he sunk a 25-foot snaking putt from just off the green.

A superbly lobbed pitch from the back of the 15th green gave him another birdie and he finished in style with two more birdies at 17 and 18 for a 66, his best round at Augusta National since a 65 in 1996.

"It was a good day. I was patient because I had opportunities on the front nine that didn't fall but on the back nine they did and got me in a great position for tomorrow. The eagle on 13 was the big one - it gave me momentum," he said.

Oosthuizen, aiming to make it back-to-back wins for South Africa after Charl Schwartzel's victory last year, had a chance to draw level with Hanson at the last but instead of the birdie he needed he got a bogey after a poor approach.

"I felt in control of my swing which always helps," he said.

"I felt calm and just wanted to put myself close to the leaders and have a go at it tomorrow."

Third round co-leaders Couples and Dufner were dislodged very quickly by world No 3 Westwood, but the Englishman stumbled himself with bogeys at seven and nine as Hanson took over.

Woods mounted a brief mini-charge early on, but quickly fell back again and by the completion of his round, his hopes of a fifth green jacket were in tatters.

Starting the day eight strokes behind the leaders, Woods was looking for a quick rebound after his swing nightmare down the back nine on Friday but failed to get it.

"Obviously I need help from the guys this afternoon," he said. "Regardless of what they do, I need to play a great round of golf tomorrow, and hopefully I can do that."