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The Masters: Phil Mickelson believes Augusta course set-up is ideal to ‘identify the best player’


The firm and fast set-up at Augusta National has met with the seal of approval from three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, but he will need something special on Sunday to win a fourth Green Jacket

Last Updated: 10/04/21 8:47pm

Phil Mickelson fired a 69 early on day three

Phil Mickelson declared the set-up at Augusta National is “perfect” to identify the best player at this week’s Masters.

Mickelson made the most of benign early conditions on the third day to fire a three-under 69 and get back to level par for the tournament having made the halfway cut with nothing to spare.

The three-time champion enjoyed a confident start to Moving Day with birdies at two of the first three holes and, after an error at the seventh, he made good fours at the eighth and 13th before doing well to scramble a par at 15 when his second found the water in front of the green.

Mickelson paid tribute to the course set-up at Augusta

Mickelson paid tribute to the course set-up at Augusta

The Augusta layout played firm and fast over the first two days and the speed of the greens caught a number of players off guard, particularly at the 15th where several of the field chipped – and even putted – into the water from the back of the green.

But Mickelson said: “In my opinion, it’s set up perfect to identify the best player, and the guys that are striking it well are up on the leaderboard, the guys that are putting it well. And I think it’s very fair because we’re making divots, the balls are stopping.

“It’s not like the ’90s where we weren’t, but you have to have quality shots. You’ve got to hit angles into the pins. You’ve got to be smart.

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“I think it’s perfectly done, and it punishes you, like it did me the first couple of days, when you make mistakes or don’t put it in the right spot or hit poor chips. I love seeing it like this because you can score low, but you also need to respect it.”

Mickelson feels his rounds of 75 and 72 have left him too far off the pace to challenge for a fourth Green Jacket on Sunday, although his first sub-70 score of the week has given him a glimmer of hope.

“I didn’t play well enough the first two days and threw too many shots away to really give myself a legitimate opportunity,” he added. “But sometimes you get lucky and you come out in the morning, today, and it was playable, and I made some birdies.

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“Then the wind picks up, and leaders don’t go anywhere, and you end up having a chance on Sunday, which is certainly what I’m hoping for.

“I’ll need to shoot something in the mid to low 60s, which is still fun to have a chance. You want that opportunity to do what Nicklaus did in ’86 and shoot 65 and have a chance. I don’t know if that will be good enough, but I’m having a lot of fun.

“For the first time in a long time, I finally scored, like I shot a number that was equivalent or even better than the way I was hitting it.”

2:28
Billy Horschel scrambled to an unlikely par from the water at Augusta National’s par-five 13th, having taken a tumble before playing his shot bare-footed!

Billy Horschel scrambled to an unlikely par from the water at Augusta National’s par-five 13th, having taken a tumble before playing his shot bare-footed!

Mickelson was also called upon to check the back of playing-partner Billy Horschel’s trousers after the WGC Match Play champion slipped on the bank at the front of the 13th green after removing his shoes and socks to splash his ball back into play from Rae’s Creek.

Horschel avoided injury in the fall, and was more concerned about the state of his white trousers!

“I said, ‘How bad is it? How bad is that grass stain going to be’, and Phil looked and said, ‘Yeah, there’s one there, sorry buddy’!

“Obviously that’s going to be a highlight that’s played on social media or maybe Augusta or The Masters will take it off. But I was hoping to make the putt so at least it would be something funny from it!”

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