AUGUSTA, GA. — Phil Mickelson may yet win a fourth Masters title. It just won’t be this year, particularly after Saturday’s disastrous 77 that featured back-to-back double bogeys at Nos. 11 and 12, part of a four-hole stretch he played in 5 over par and hit two balls in the water.
“I just played terrible,” Mickelson said. “There’s no way around it. I’m just not hitting very good golf shots, missing it in bad spots and not really knowing which side I’m going to miss it on. So my play has been beyond terrible, and that’s certainly disappointing.”
Mickelson, 42, has never finished worse than tied for 46th in the 19 Masters in which he made the cut, and that came in his first appearance, in 1991. But at 8 over, he stands tied for 56th.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Mickelson said. “but I’ve been struggling with my ball-strking. . . . It doesn’t feel good. The ball-striking, I just don’t know where it’s going to go.”
Mickelson won earlier this year in Phoenix, but has just one top-15 finish in his seven other tournaments. Golf’s next major, at short-and-tight Merion outside Philadelphia, would not seem to be a good fit for him.
Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old amateur from China who was penalized for slow play in Friday’s second round, shot a 5-over 77 Saturday, the worst of his three rounds here. But he still provided a thrill by holing a long putt at the 18th, and he had no issues with pace of play.
“The weather is good today,” Guan said, “and we played in twosomes, so we played fast.”
Guan took roughly 50 seconds over his second shot at 17 Friday, after he had twice been warned for slow play. He cited the wind as a primary reason for his indecision over some shots. . . .
Defending champion Bubba Watson, who made the cut on the number, managed his first sub-par round of the tournament with his 70 on Saturday. Watson, the first player off at 9:25 a.m., played with Jeff Knox, a University of Georgia alum who served as a non-competitive marker.
They completed their round in 3 hours 20 minutes. “Who wouldn’t like that?” Watson said. . . .
Rory McIlroy’s up-and-down Masters hit rock bottom on the back nine Saturday, when he hit into the water at the 11th and then three-putted for triple bogey. He took another 7 — a double bogey at the par-5 15th — en route to a back-nine 42 and a third-round 79 that left him at 5 over for the tournament.