AUGUSTA — Five former Masters Tournament champions will enter today’s final round at Augusta National Golf Club with a realistic chance of adding another green jacket to their wardrobe. Angel Cabrera (2009), Tiger Woods (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005), Bernhard Langer (1985, 1993), Zach Johnson (2007) and Fred Couples (1992) are among the top 20 players on the leaderboard, with Cabrera tied for the lead.
One former champion who isn’t in contention after moving day, in something of a surprise, is Phil Mickelson. The three-time green jacket winner (2004, 2006, 2010) has struggled through the first three rounds and is on track for his worst finish in Augusta since missing the cut in 1997.
Mickelson is currently tied for 56th place, 15-strokes behind Cabrera and Brandt Snedeker. He followed a promising opening-round 71 with a 76 and a 77 Saturday. Those are the worst back-to-back scores Mickelson has ever had at the Masters, and his 77 matches the worst score he’s ever posted in a single-round in Augusta.
The previous 77 came in 2007, when the wind was whipping and the temperatures were frigid and everybody struggled. The conditions have been significantly different this week, something that wasn’t lost on Mickelson.
“It is a beautiful day here, and you cannot get a more majestic day here at the Masters,” Mickelson, before lowering the boom on himself. “I just played terrible. 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 said the fault in his game lies with his ball striking. He said it hasn’t been good, especially with the iron play and short irons. That’s especially surprising, considering Mickelson has risen to the status of all-time great Masters champions because of his tremendous skill with irons.
While the stats don’t reflect it, Mickelson said he feels good with his putting. But he hasn’t been great when he gets on the greens either. In spite of the struggles, Mickelson tried to remain upbeat.
“Where else would you rather be than Augusta National with this kind of weather on a weekend? It’s just spectacular, and certainly I wish I played better, but it sure is fun being here,” he said, before his four bogey, two double-bogey round deflated his optimism. “This is the one event I look forward to more than anything, and it’s just kind of heartbreaking to play the way I’ve been playing. Disappointed in myself.”
Mickelson will tee off today at 9:40 a.m., playing with Ryan Moore in the third pairing of the day.
Chances of winning Guan
After impressing the world with his first two rounds in the Masters, Tianglang Guan had his first difficult day at Augusta National. The Chinese 14 year old had five bogies and no birdies, carding a 77 to leave him at 9-over 225 and 17 strokes off the lead.
But neither the difficult day nor the looming specter of his slow-play penalty from Friday could dampen what has been a thrilling experience for Guan. He’s the youngest golfer to ever compete in the Masters, and the youngest player to make the cut in a PGA Tour event and could become the face of golf in China, a nation with a growing interest in the sport.
“It’s great for me, and I think I had a pretty good run the first two days (73-75), and today feels pretty good, not badly,” Guan said. “I did a couple unlucky, but that’s golf.”
His optimism can be buoyed by the fact that he’ll be the low amateur and get to be part of the green jacket presentation at Butler Cabin tonight. Guan was the lone amateur in the 2013 Masters to make the cut.
“It’s my honor to be there and I’m really happy,” said Guan, who is looking to qualify for the U.S. Open also this year. “It’s just a great week for me, and I really enjoy it. People here are nice, and I learned a lot from the top players. I think I played pretty good rounds these three days. It’s really great.”
Guan said he was conscious of how fast – or slow – he was playing during the third round and wasn’t put on the clock. He was also aware of the issue regarding Tiger Woods and the controversy over the two-stroke penalty he received from his drop on Friday. Guan reacted similarly to Woods’ penalty as he did to his own, showing that golf is the same for the best player in the world as it is for a teenager making his major championship debut.
“I think rules are rule, and I respect the decisions they make,” Guan said. “I think Tiger played pretty good.”
The total prize money for the professionals competing in the Masters was released, and the cumulative purse is $8 million.
So if somebody dismisses the importance of a putt for second place when a green jacket winner has already been determined, feel free to point out there’s still plenty at stake. There are approximately 320,000 reasons to make that putt, as runner-up will earn $864,000 while third will be rewarded with $544,000. In addition to a green jacket, the Masters winner this year will get $1,440,000 – along with a lifetime invitation to compete at Augusta National.
Finishing in the top 20 ensures a payday of more than $100,000 while placing 50th is worth $20,160. The remainder of the pros will receive cash prizes ranging downward from $19,680 depending on the scores.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.