Planet Golf — 08 April 2012 by Jim Street
Par-5s could decide 76th Masters

There are four par-5s at Augusta National and those are the holes that could well decide who ends up wearing a green jacket at the end of the day on Sunday.

As the saying goes, grip it and rip it.

After the first three rounds of The Masters, those who have mastered the par-5s – two on each side – the most are at the top of the leader board heading into the final round of what shapes up to be a terrific finish to the first major of the year.

Third-round leader Peter Hanson birdied three of the par 5s on Saturday to help him shoot a 6-under 65 and climb to the top of the leader board. He’s now 6-under for the tournament on the longest of holes.

Crowd favorite Phil Mickelson, one shot behind Hanson after a blistering back nine, made huge gains with an eagle and birdie on the par-5s, and has played those holes 8-under after 54 holes.

And long-hitting Bubba Watson birdied three of the four par-5 holes on Saturday, keeping him the hunt for his first major title. He enters the final round in fourth place, three shots behind Hanson and one behind Luis Oosthuiven, who is 4-under on the par-5s.

So get ready for a wild ride on Easter Sunday.

After a round of expert shot-making ended with an approach to near tap-in range on No. 18 for a birdie, Hanson finished at 9-under 207. Mickelson had a par on each of the first nine holes, and then shot 30 on the back — one shy of the course record — for a round of 66 and 8-under in his pursuit of a fourth green jacket.

“I was just trying to do the boring stuff,” Hanson said. “Trying to hit every shot, put it in play off the tee (and) give myself a chance.”

Saturday was indeed moving day at The Masters.

Padraig Harrington and Hunter Mahan made the biggest gains, picking up 18 spots with identical 68 scores and are among four players tied for sixth place, five shots behind the leader.

On the other side of moving day, several of the second-round leaders took it on the chin. Co-leaders Fred Couples, who was 4-over on his round after six holes, and Jason Dufner each shot a 3-over 75 and fell into an eight-way tie for 11th place at 2-under.

But they had “good” days compared to Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, who started the round just one shot out of the lead.

The good friends shot themselves out of the tournament on the front none – McIlroy with a 42 and Sergio with a 40. They both birdied No. 12 – their first of the round – and celebrated with a big hug.

Garcia finished with a 3-over 75, leaving him tied for 19th while McIlroy, a pre-tournament favorite, faded all the way to a tie for 27th after a toe-stubbing 77.

Tigers Woods, meanwhile, carded a pedestrian 72 and is tied for 38th heading into the final round.

The shot of the third round belonged to Mickelson.

He overshot the green with his approach, leaving him with the choice of hitting a bump-and-run, or a flop shot that only he can pull off. He opened up his 64-degree wedge, took a full swing, and the ball came to rest about four feet from the cup.

“There was some risk in that one,” Mickelson said.

The risk-reward definitely was worth it as he sank the birdie putt to put him at 7-under. He also birdied No. 18 – for the third consecutive day.

Masters Notes:

— Third-round leader Peter Hanson and Henrik Stenson, who is tied for sixth, are trying to become the first player from Sweden to win a major championship. Jesper Parnevik finished secvond at the 1994 British Open and tied for second at the 1997 British Open.

— The eventual Masters champion has come out of the final Sunday pairing 19 out of the last 21 years, with Zach Johnson (2007) and Charl Schwartzel (2011) being the exceptions.

— The third-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win the Masters Tournament 41 out of 75 times, most recently Angel Cabrera in 2009.

— Dating to 1991, with the exception of Zach Johnson (tied for fourth) in 2007, the Masters champion has been ranked no lower than tied for second following 54 holes.

— The only Masters champion who was not inside the top 10 on the leaderboard after 54 holes was Art Wall Jr. in 1959 (tied for 13th).

— The largest comeback at the Masters after the third round is eight strokes (Jack Burke, 1956). Burke was eight behind Ken Venturi through three rounds but edged Venturi by one with a closing round of 71 (compared to Burke’s 80).

— In 2012, winners on the PGA Tour have come back from deficits of seven (Brandt Snedeker/Farmers Insurance Open), eight (Kyle Stanley/Waste Management Phoenix Open), six (Phil Mickelson/AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) and seven (John Huh/Mayakoba Golf Classic).

— The last four Masters champions have played the week prior at the Shell Houston Open (2008/Trevor Immelman, 2009/Angel Cabrera, 2010/Phil Mickelson and 2011/Charl Schwartzel). Hanson, Mickelson and Oosthuizen all played the Shell Houston Open last week.

— Tiger Woods has not recorded a birdie or eagle on any of the par-5s in round two and round three. Prior to this week the only times Woods did not record a birdie or eagle on at least one par-5 in a round at the Masters was in 2008 (R4) and 2003 (R1). Woods played his 69th career round at the Masters today. Woods has gone 233 consecutive holes without a double-bogey at the Masters (last was 1st hole in R3 in 2009). The double-bogey in 2009 is the only one in his last 471 holes at the Masters.

— Hideki Matsuyama became the first amateur since Matt Kuchar (1998-1999) to make the cut in consecutive years at the Masters. Sam W. Randolph (1985-1986) is the last player to record low amateur honors in consecutive years at the Masters. Matsuyama was low amateur at the Masters in 2011.

 

 

 

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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