Masters notebook: Phil Mickelson misses cut for first time since 1997; Couples in the hunt

Phil Mickelson is usually relaxed when he arrives at Augusta National Golf Club, but he had one concern coming in this Masters week: He had not played particularly well, and hadn’t won a tournament, this year.

So through that prism, maybe his rounds of 76 and 73 that left him 5 over weren’t that surprising. But the reality is stunning: Mickelson missed his first cut at the Masters since 1997. So the question isn’t how he’ll play over the weekend, it’s will he watch over the weekend?

“I probably will,” he said. “It’s kind of . . . my punishment.”

The punishment will largely be for a pair of triple bogeys, the first at No. 7 on Thursday, the second at the par-3 12th on Friday. In the latter debacle, Mickelson found the front bunker off the tee, the back bunker next, then the front bunker again.

“Instead of one [shot] sliding, two or three are going away,” Mickelson said. “That’s the kind of stuff when you’re playing tournament golf and you’re mentally sharp you don’t do. And that’s the kind of stuff I seem to be doing right now.”

This now is a disturbing trend for Mickelson. Since squandering a chance to win with a final-round 72 in 2012, he has broken par only once in seven Masters rounds. His average over that period: 74.

Couples right in the mix

When he was 50, Fred Couples stood ninth at the midway point of the 2010 Masters. The next year, he was seventh after 36 holes. In 2012, he shared the darn lead. Last year, he stood tied for second.

Now Couples is 54, and his back-to-back 71s over the first two days leave him at 2 under, tied for seventh — and right in the center of things yet again.

“Can I win it?” asked the 1992 Masters champ. “Yeah. That’s why I’m here.”

Over this stretch of stellar Masters, Couples knows Saturday has been his most difficult day. With the lead in 2012 he shot 75 to fall to 11th, and last year he shot 77. . . .

Larry Mize, the 1987 Masters champ who had missed the cut 11 times in the previous 13 years, made it by carding a second-round 72 that left him 2 over. Bernhard Langer, a two-time champ who is 56, birdied 18 on Friday to also make the cut at 2 over, and 56-year-old Sandy Lyle, who won in 1988, shot 72 to make the cut on the number at 4 over. . . .

First-round leader Bill Haas followed his opening 68 with a disappointing 78 that featured a brutal stretch from Nos. 9 to 13: bogey, bogey, double, bogey, bogey. The double came at the difficult 11th, where his tee shot rested against a tree. . . .

The first father-son duo to play in the same Masters will only have half its representation over the weekend. Kevin Stadler is 1 under after Friday’s 73, but his father Craig, the 1982 Masters champ, shot 82-77 to finish 15 over in what he said was likely his last Masters. . . .

Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters winner, was assessed a penalty stroke when his ball moved after he addressed it on the sixth green. Johnson thus bogeyed the hole en route to an even-par round of 72 that still left him 6 over, missing the cut.

Barry Svrluga is the national baseball writer for The Washington Post.
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