Saturday is known as "Moving Day" on the PGA Tour, when players try to put themselves in position for a shot at the lead come Sunday. And no sport celebrates the motions of a soon-to-be 42-year-old white guy quite like golf. After 54 holes at Augusta, three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson finds himself in familiar territory: behind a Swedish blond.
Peter Hanson is the leader after three rounds, but Mickelson trails by only one stroke as the two prepare to play in the final pairing of the 2012 Masters on Sunday. Both were magnificent on Saturday; Phil making the "shot of the day" with his flop shot on the 15th hole, Hanson finishing with four birdies over the last five holes to grab the outright lead. Together, they head a group of ten that features six of the top-25 players in the world (Hanson, Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Lee Westwood), the 27th ranked player (Louis Oosthuizen), two past major winners (Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie), and another Swede (Henrik Stenson).
Listen to David Faherty cream his pants over Phil's flop shot.
Hanson is vying to win his first Masters in only his second attempt, in turn becoming the first Swedish man ever to win a major (as would Stenson should he finish on top). Phil, meanwhile, is looking to win his fourth green jacket, which would put him in rarefied air—tied for second all-time with Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, behind only Jack Nicklaus' six Masters wins. A Swede and a Lefty; [insert IKEA joke here.]
Yesterday I told you Tiger's not the only philanderer on the course, and there have been rumblings of Phil's own swinging past; one that involves Michael Jordan, illegitimate children, and threats of lawsuits against Yahoo commenters. Yet, with his own chance at history, Mickelson is sure to be the on-course favorite, while Tiger's contempt for most of humanity has made him an easy target. The lesson here is, if you don't want to take a PR hit, learn to play it cool under pressure. Being white doesn't hurt either.
We Eschew Tiger Woods Puns To Simply Say That His Play Was Poor
In what can only be described as stunning (or "refreshing"), Tiger Woods was barely part of the TV coverage on Saturday. He finished his round before the The Masters hit the air, and his even-par 72 didn't create a riveting highlight reel. It's remarkable that Tiger Woods at Augusta—two weeks after winning the Arnold Palmer invitational by five strokes—is a non-story, yet ratings and anticipation remain high. If there is one thing that might strike fear into Tiger Woods, it's the threat of becoming irrelevant. When he didn't win for two and half years, he was still the game's biggest draw, but a record viewership on a Sunday where Woods doesn't make an appearance might seriously damage his psyche.
Interesting factoid pointed out by the Daily News: Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have hit the same percentage of fairways and greens, though Tiger has taken 10 more putts and two more penalty shots.
Still, Tiger's pedestrian 72 was leagues ahead of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. The two studs (remember, you can't "cheat" if you're not married) were paired with each other and started the round only one stroke off the lead. Rory had a day reminiscent of last year's disastrous final round, finishing with a 77 that left him at +1 for the tournament. Garcia, a fan favorite who has yet to win a major (and little else on the PGA Tour in recent years), shot a 75, leaving him at -1. 52-year-old and feel good story Fred Couples and Jason Dufner, the second round co-leaders, didn't fare any better, each shooting three-over 75's leaving them seven strokes off the pace.
McIlory and Garcia share a sympathy hug.
Woods, McIlroy, Garcia, and Couples could've made Sunday's final round at Augusta sexy. Instead, we're left with some pasty, doughy Anglos. According to the ratings, that's exactly what CBS viewers in America want.
Derek Evers is the publisher of Impose Magazine and a contributing writer for Golf Digest. He's writing about The Masters for Gothamist because your weekend editors aren't sure of what to make of this "golf."