Hanson, Mickelson 1-2 at the Masters

April 7, 2012 at 7:32 PM
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AUGUSTA, Ga., April 7 (UPI) -- Peter Hanson took the lead at the Masters Saturday with the week's low round and despite the heroics found Phil Mickelson just one shot behind.

An assortment of the game's biggest stars, Tiger Woods included, were left far behind in the wake of a Swede who has never won on American soil and one of golf's favorite sons who will be seeking his fourth Masters title.

Hanson, who was paired with Mickelson during the opening two rounds and will play in his company again Sunday, shot a 31 on the back nine of the Augusta Golf Club. He birdied the final two holes to post a 65 and complete 54 holes at 9-under 207.

Mickelson, playing in the group behind Hanson, curled 20-foot putt for eagle at the par-5 13th to ignite a brilliant stretch that brought him a 30 on the back nine and an 18-hole score of 66. He had a 208 total.

A win Sunday would tie Mickelson with Arnold Palmer and Woods for the second-most Masters titles ever -- two behind the six compiled in a 24-year span by Jack Nicklaus.

Alone in third place was former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, who had a 69 for a 209 total.

Then came a series of young Americans seeking to break through with their biggest moment to date on the golfing stage -- Bubba Watson in fourth at 210, Matt Kuchar in fifth at 211 and Hunter Mahan tied for sixth at 212.

Mahan, the only two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, was joined in sixth place by three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood.

Before the tournament started, Mickelson said he thought the soft course conditions would create lots of birdie chances. His prediction came true Saturday and those who could not make their share of birdies fell far behind.

Among those was Woods, who managed only an even-par 72 and wound up at 3-over 219 in a tie for 38th place.

He was not the only one to struggle, however. Rory McIlroy, ranked second in the world and just one shot out of the lead when the day began, suffered through a 77 that left him 10 shots off the pace. Sergio Garcia, playing in the same pairing as McIlroy, had a 75.

When both players made a birdie at the par-3 12th, they walked toward each other with smiles on their faces and put their arms around each other.

"Sometimes you just need a hug," McIlroy said after the round. McIlroy had a four-shot lead going into the final round of last year's Masters before shooting an 80.

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