A risk-taking left-hander put on the ceremonial green jacket as the winner of the Masters Tournament yesterday. It just wasn’t Phil Mickelson, the golfer that oddsmakers expected to claim a fourth Masters title at the start of the final round.
“I’m certainly going to be disappointed that I wasn’t able to get it done here because I had a great opportunity,” said Mickelson, who finished in a four-way tie for third place, two shots out of the playoff, at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.
Mickelson, 41, entered the final day one shot behind 54- hole leader Peter Hanson and a 5-4 favorite of Las Vegas oddsmakers to join Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods as the only golfers with four or more Masters wins.
Mickelson had rebounded from a triple-bogey during the opening round, when he started the tournament with a 2-over 74, yet couldn’t overcome his early mistake yesterday.
His errant tee shot on the 240-yard sixth hole sailed well left of the green and landed in a stand of bamboo. The left- hander then attempted his next two shots right-handed to advance the ball, moving it slightly on the first swing. Mickelson’s fourth shot came up short of the green in a bunker, leading to the worst score on the hole during the tournament.
Mickelson, whose 6-under par 30 over the final nine holes in the third round was one above the Masters record, fell short in his attempt at another late charge yesterday. He had birdies on the final three par-5 holes, yet wasn’t able to pick up further ground as Watson and Oosthuizen finished 10-under par.
Watson joined Mickelson and Mike Weir as the only left- handed golfers to win the Masters when he parred the second extra hole after hooking a shot out of the trees onto the green to set up the clinching putt.
“If you watch Phil Mickelson, he goes for broke,” Watson said. “I play the same way. I always attack. I don’t go for the center of the greens. I go for the amazing shot.”
Mickelson has long expressed his love for the Masters and was on hand for the start of competition four days ago, when he was in the crowd on the first tee at 7:40 a.m. to watch the ceremonial opening tee shots by Nicklaus, Palmer and Gary Player -- more than five hours before his starting time.
Augusta National was the site of Mickelson’s breakthrough in 2004, when he beat Ernie Els by one shot to end a decade that featured 17 top-10 finishes at the majors. He followed that win with the PGA Championship win in 2005 and Masters victories in 2006 and 2010, becoming one of the sport’s most popular players. Thousands of fans followed Mickelson around the course yesterday, some urging him on with shouts of “We love you, Phil” and “Bring it home, Phil.”
“It’s certainly disappointing not getting it done, not being able to convert the opportunities on the back nine, not being able to electrify the crowds and move up the leaderboard,” Mickelson said. “It doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy myself, that I didn’t enjoy the opportunity.”
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