Masters 2012: Why Phil Mickelson Is the Sunday Favorite at Augusta
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The 2012 Masters Tournament is up for grabs.
On Thursday, it was Lee Westwood, the No. 3 ranked player in the world, with the lead at five under par. On Friday, it was 52-year-old former Masters champ Fred Couples and PGA Championship runner-up Jason Dufner sharing the honor at minus-five.
And while those three players remain within striking distance on a crowded leaderboard after three rounds of action, one name stands out from the rest—three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson fired a six-under 66 on Saturday—also known as "Moving Day"—to guarantee himself a spot in the final group on Sunday at Augusta National. Lefty's at eight under par, just one stroke behind the third-round leader, Sweden's Peter Hanson.
Mickelson never made his move until the back-nine on Day 3. Following nine consecutive pars on the front side, he was still at two under par on the tee at No. 10. He would then proceed to card four birdies and an eagle on the back-nine, en route to a personal career-tying low score of 30 on the second-nine at the Masters.
The highlight of his third round was unquestionably his eagle three on No. 13. Mickelson whipped the crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy with a 20-foot putt that trickled into the top of the hole to get him into a tie for the lead at six under par.
The place exploded. It felt like Sunday. It was that loud.
Equally as impressive, however, was his full-swing flop shot from behind the green on No. 15. It was a work of art. Some might say there is only one person who would even think of attempting that shot, let alone actually being able to pull it off. Mickelson, of course, did both, and it led to a birdie on that hole.
Who will win the 2012 Masters?
Phil Mickelson has the rare talent to be able to flip a switch and shift his game into an entirely different gear. This edition of the Masters Tournament is a perfect example. For the first 12 holes of this championship, Mickelson was four over par. Over the course of the past 42 holes, however, he's 12 under par.
It's almost like he's two different people. He's cold one minute, hot the next. But it's all part of what makes him so appealing to golf fans. Lefty plays the game fearlessly. Sometimes it's ugly, but when it's working, there are few, if any, better.
Mickelson is in his perfect place, both literally and figuratively. And he has to be the Sunday favorite on a leaderboard packed with talent, but lacking the experience and success he has in this situation.
As is oftentimes the case at Augusta, the Masters Tournament will begin Sunday afternoon on the back-nine. It's where the true contenders will once and for all separate themselves from the pack.
We have to assume Mickelson will be one of those contenders. And if he can muster even half of his second-nine performance from Saturday, he'll likely earn his fourth green jacket.
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