The giant scoreboard says Hanson leads this Masters by a shot and that he actually had the lowest round of this day, not Mickelson, despite Phil’s brilliance with a back-nine 30 that included a 40-foot eagle putt on the 13th hole and a daring full-swing flop shot by the 15th green that might have bought disaster but instead purchased a birdie.
Everyone here, including Hanson it seems, feels that a fourth green jacket in the space of nine years is destined for Mickelson’s closet. But it would be a mistake to assume that the kind of feats performed by both these men — Hanson had a back-nine 31 and a Peter-Phil better-ball would have been 8-under-par 28 — can be duplicated on demand. Did they put on a show that one, or both, can’t quite repeat?
The players within reach of them, Louis Oosthuizen (pronounced “West-hi-zen”), who won the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews, and the titanic, going-to-win-a-Masters-someday Bubba Watson are just two and three shots off the lead. In all, eight players are within five shots of Hanson, including Hunter Mahan, suddenly-hot three-major-man Padraig Harrington and often-thwarted-but-dangerous Lee Westwood.
Yet Masters facts tend to repeat, decade to decade, and in 18 of the last 20 years, the winner has come from the final pairing. Not last year, granted, but mighty often. If anything, Hanson and Mickelson have boosted each other’s confidence, playing together Thursday and Friday (both shot 142) and playing in sequential groups in this third round, each almost in awe of what they had watched the other man do.
“This was one of those special kind of Masters moments that I’ve been watching so many times [on] TV,” said Hanson, who’s played on the European Ryder Cup team, but, otherwise, never shared a stage like this. “You hear the crowd going wild when [Phil] made the eagle. It kind of helped me on 14. I feel him breathing down my neck and manage to get mine close on 14 and pick up another birdie on 15.”
Mickelson, who’s already had a win and a playoff loss this season and who has never seemed more comfortable with himself and his game, was equally impressed with the show Hanson provided in front of him.