We've seen Phil Mickelson produce some incredible moments over the years at the Masters. When you have three green jackets, people expect a certain level of golf when you step on the grounds at Augusta National, but on a cloudless Saturday afternoon, Phil Mickelson raised those expectations to a new level.
As golf writers, we tend to throw around superlatives when talking about great rounds. But Phil Mickelson's back nine on Saturday? Well, there isn't really a superlative that would do his third-round performance justice. Call it spectacular, call it unreal; frankly, it was the kind of stuff that likely left even the most ardent golf fan speechless.
Early on, it looked like a Saturday charge wasn't even in the cards for Mickelson. After stringing together nine consecutive pars to start his round, he finally found a spark on the 10th, rolling in a birdie putt that ignited one of the most incredible back-nine charges we've seen in Masters history.
Mickelson went on to stuff his approach shot on the par-3 12th to within 15 feet, before calmly rolling in the birdie putt that set off a roar that echoed through the Georgia Pines at Augusta National.
But Mickelson wasn't done. Oh no, he was just getting started. He followed the birdie up with an approach shot from 207 yards on the par-5 13th that landed 40 feet from the hole for eagle. It was the kind of shot that made you believe we could be on the verge of seeing something special.
An eagle on 13 to go to 6-under for the tournament? You almost knew it had to go in. And it did – to a raucous ovation that even CBS commentator Jim Nantz noted was one of, it not the loudest roar he'd ever heard in the tournament's history.
The louder the cheers got, the better Mickelson seemed to play. That was evident two holes later when he produced the shot of the tournament on the par-5 15th, hitting a flop shot from behind the green that landed within five feet of the hole for birdie.
And then there was the 18th, a hole that turned Mickelson's career around in 2004 when he rolled in a birdie putt to win his first major championship. It seemed fitting that he finished his magical back nine where it all started, lacing an unbelievable approach shot around the trees to within 20 feet, and then canning the putt for a back-nine 30.
His 6-under 66 has him sitting just one back of Peter Hanson, who will be paired with Mickelson on a course that Fred Couples called "Phil's playground" last week at the Shell Houston Open.
It certainly looked like his playground on Saturday. Despite the pressure of playing in the final group Sunday and going for his fourth green jacket, Mickelson said he's more than ready for the challenge that lies ahead.
"I love nothing more than being in the last group on Sunday at Augusta," Mickelson said. "It's the greatest thing in pro golf."
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