No way this Sunday at the Masters will come even close to matching the excitement of last year’s finish, right? After all, Phil Mickelson’s record at the Masters and love affair with Augusta National speaks for itself. In the 19 of the last 21 Masters, the winner has come from the final twosome…
As I was typing the above sentences, Louis Oosthuizen made a double- eagle from 260 yards on the par-5 No. 2. I was watching from our personal mini-TVs in the press center and you know when you just see the ball rolling toward the pin and you have a good feeling about it — you’re thinking, wait, I don’t know if it’s just the angle, but that’s rolling right at the hole. I mean, it looks perfect! And it was.
Louis, who won the Open Championship at St. Andrews in 2010, carded the first albatross on the second hole and only the fourth ever in Masters history. The most recent one prior to Louis’ double-eagle heard around the globe? (I mean, I could hear the roar from the press center and this rarely happens but I’m pretty sure it created a nice, excited buzz in here.) Jeff Maggert carded a 2 on the par-5 No. 13 in 1994. Wow, it’s been 18 years.
After picking up the ball from the cup, Louis flipped the ball into the crowd. Nice gesture!
54-hole leader Peter Hanson (whom I picked in my Fantasy Golf starting line-up — see screenshot posted on Wednesday) dropped a shot on the first hole (inevitable nerves!) with a bogey. Louis, who started two off the lead, is alone atop the leaderboard at 10-under.
With Phil the Thrill having one of those “special” back nines on Saturday, he’s feeling beyond confidence and the obvious fan favorite, he’ll be tough to beat.
I have to find the quote, but I remember Justin Rose telling me last year pre-Masters that you have to play Augusta National once under the gun to learn how to play it and handle the pressure…no time right now, but it was a good one and sums up how the course tests your patience, mental toughness, and well, entire game, coming down the stretch…
Other quick notes before I head out to interview players and report on the guys in contention…
*Does Bubba Watson have the patience to pull it off? Sorry, I’m going to go with “no.” Bubba’s an amazing talent, but I don’t think he has the mental resiliency and focus that you need to win at Augusta National. I obviously could be wrong. Now I don’t know if Bubba has said this publicly, but a reliable source says if Bubba wins today, we won’t see him again until the U.S. Open…
*Fred Couples did exactly what we thought he’d do on Saturday after holding a share of the 36-hole lead (as Conor coined: “Freddie’s ritual trolling of the Masters…”)…
*Must-read column from the great Joe Posnanski (his last day w/SI!) on “The Wonder of Phil.” Posnanski even coined a word to describe the aggressive lefty back in ’95(ish) when watching him here: “Floopty-doopty.”
*Speaking of Phil, uh, the tee shot on the par-3 No. 4 he just hit? It was so bad that it went OVER the back-left bleachers! As we always say, you never know with Phil…but he always seems to “miss” it in the right places at Augusta National or if he’s in the trees, he’ll have that perfect opening at the flag.
*Of the guys who have a shot at beating Phil and catching Oosthuizen, who has what it takes? Matt Kuchar? Bubba? Padraig Harrigton? Hunter Mahan? Lee Westwood?
*Who the heck saw Rory McIlroy’s 77 coming on Saturday?? WTF!
*Sergio Garcia made some candid yet morbidly refreshing comments to the Spanish press yesterday. Check out Scott Michaux’s Twitter feed — start reading from the bottom:
Words from an incredible talent who was just beaten down after blowing so many chances early in his career? It’s kind of sad, but like I said, morbidly refreshing. Can’t hate on him for his honesty.
*Adam Scott aced the par-3 16th.
*The Green Coats have set up the course for the makings of a super exciting finish — eagle pins on 13 and 15, feeder birdie pins on 16 and 18. Stay tuned.
*I know I’m missing some things I wanted to point out, but that’s too bad. I’m sure you’ll survive. And I will, too. I hope.
Enjoy the final round at the Masters!
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)