The first round of The Masters tournament was incredibly unkind to Phil Mickelson. “Lefty” started the tournament by posting a 2 over par 74 in the first round. That score put him 7 shots back of the leaders, who were 5 under at the time. Anybody that is familiar with The Masters, however, is aware that 7 shots behind is still very much in contention, as the course at Augusta National has a tendency to make professional golfers look very ordinary.
Mickelson started the tournament by bogeying the first hole and finished the first nine 1 over par. He ran into trouble on the 10th hole, where he posted a triple bogey. He finished the rest of the round with 3 birdies and 1 bogey, including a birdie on the last hole.
The second day went much better for Phil, however. He played the round 4 under par and shot 68, which put him at 2 under par for the tournament. That score was good enough to be the second lowest round of the day. Mickelson’s putter was on fire, despite the fact that he (along with the majority of the field) missed some fairways very badly. In addition, he birdied the 18th hole again on the second day. Finishing each of the first 2 rounds with a birdie definitely gave Phil momentum going into the next day, especially considering most of the field struggled mightily to finish out on 18. Generally, when Phil’s putter is working, he is going to be in contention; and his 4 under par second round put him right back in the mix. He moved from 7 shots back at the end of day 1 to 3 shots back at the end of the second day.
Day 3 is when Lefty really made his move. There’s a reason they call the 3rd round “moving day”. He kept within striking distance on the first nine with 9 pars. Then the rally started. He birdied 10 and 12 and eagled the par 5 13th hole. He missed the green on number 15 but managed to hit a flop shot like only Phil can. From just off the green, with the slope running away from him and towards the water, he pulled out a 64 degree wedge, took a full backswing and popped the ball straight up in the air, landing within a few feet of the hole. He left a birdie try about a foot short on 17, which would have allowed him to reclaim a share of the lead at 8 under. From the second cut of rough on 18, a huge hook shot around the trees put him within range to make a birdie on the closing hole for the third day in a row; which he did. Mickelson posted a 30 on the second nine and moved to 8 under par for the tournament. He went to the clubhouse in second place, 1 shot behind leader Peter Hanson.
Mickelson is looking for his 4th win at The Masters in the last 9 years. He won in 2004, which was the first major victory of his career, followed by wins in 2006 and 2010. The days when he was known as “the best golfer in the world to have never won a major” are long gone. Regardless of how the rest of the field finishes the 3rd round, Phil is going to be on the first page of the leader board, within 1 or 2 shots of the lead (if he doesn’t hold a share of the lead, himself) and in perfect position to continue his dominance at The Masters.