Bravado at 13 sparks Mickelson

Hole critical to stirring comeback

 

Not many Masters Tournament champions refer to third-round shots as the key to their victory.

Phil Mickelson, who seldom does things the conventional way, will think back on a three-hole, third-round run as the spark that ignited his 2010 victory.

Mickelson trailed tournament leader Lee Westwood by five shots after the Englishman birdied the 10th hole in the third round.

Westwood's lead was gone 35 minutes later after Mickelson went eagle-eagle-birdie on Nos. 13-15, and Westwood made bogey on No. 12.

Mickelson's back-to-back eagles tied the tournament record for consecutive eagles held by Dan Pohl (1982) and Dustin Johnson (2009).

Mickelson almost made it three eagles in a row, but his 87-yard third shot on the par-5 15th hole danced past the hole, leaving him a short birdie putt, which he made.

"I was in a good seat to watch him play some incredible golf," said Y.E. Yang, Mickelson's third-round playing partner.

Westwood made birdie on No. 15 while Mickelson bogeyed No. 17, giving Westwood the 54-hole lead. Mickelson was a shot back.

"I haven't played this well in a long time," Mickelson said after a third-round 67 that put him in the final-round pairing with Westwood, who had 68.

"It was probably one of the great days in golf, in a major," Westwood said of the third round. "I was well aware somebody was making a charge, and I figured it was Phil."

The key moment of Mickelson's charge was the second shot into No. 13.

"His whole tournament started on one shot -- the 7-iron into 13 on Saturday," said Jim "Bones" Mackay, Mickelson's caddie.

"We're five shots behind Lee," Mackay said. "He's (Mickelson) a lefty, got 195 yards to back-left pin. He couldn't hit a cut and get to that pin so he had to hook it, which is a very unnatural shot for a left-handed player to that flag. But he said he was going to hit a hard hooking 7 and I said, 'Wow. That's a hard shot.' He hits it to 8 feet and makes eagle, eagles 14, birdies 15 and the chase is on."

That 35-minute stretch will go down in Masters lore.

"It was crazy," Mackay said. "Fred Couples was in the group in front of us. Joe (LaCava) is my best friend and I'm close with Fred, too. Fred is out there having fun, cutting up. Fred is giving a fist pump to Phil after we eagle 13.

"Then we wait for the green to clear on 14 and Phil holes the wedge. "We walk up to the green and everyone is going crazy. Fred's now walking up 15 and he's yelling at us. I can't hear a word he's saying. Fred says, 'I want that ball.' He's a big sports memorabilia nut. He wants it for his collection. It was an incredible kind of electricity."

Mickelson made one more spectacular shot Sunday, and it came at an opportune time.

Mickelson pulled off a a risky one on the par-5 13th hole.

From a lie on pine straw in the right woods, he faced a shot of 207 yards through a narrow gap between two pine trees to a green fronted by a tributary of Rae's Creek.

Even with a two-shot lead (thanks to a rare birdie on the par-3 12th hole), Mickelson wasn't about to back down.

"I needed to make birdie; there were a lot of fireworks," he said.

Said Mackay: "I tried to talk him into laying it up, but he said 'no. Then we found out (K.J.) Choi made 6 (ahead of them on No. 13). I went back again. He said definitely no.

''He said, 'There's an opening in the trees, it's a 6-iron. All I've got to do is execute.' I said fair enough."

The 6-iron shot came out clean and split the two trees.

The shot ended up 4 feet from the pin. Mickelson missed the eagle putt, but the birdie helped him maintain the two-shot lead over Westwood, who also made birdie.

"I think most people would have chipped that one out," Westwood said. "That's what great players do: pull off great shots."

Westwood never got closer than two shots to Mickelson and ended up finishing second, three behind Lefty. Westwood shot 71.

Mickelson closed with 67, the lowest final round by a winner since Mark O'Meara in 1998, and finished at 16-under 272.

"Coming back to Augusta National is such an incredible feeling knowing that I've won the golf tournament and that I've had such success there, and now I'm part of the history of the Masters," Mickelson said.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 ordavid.westin@augustachronicle.com.

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