AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The fairways and greens at Augusta National shuffled the deck of players on the leaderboard at the Masters.
Some -- such as Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Fred Couples -- knocked themselves down with early bogeys Saturday.
Others -- including Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar -- positioned themselves for a possible celebration today by executing seemingly impossible shots and rolling in unthinkable putts.
Mickelson drew the loudest roars from the patrons during his ascent, but Sweden's Peter Hanson made the biggest climb of the day, moving into first place after beginning the day tied for 11th.
"I've been up on the leaderboard a few times, but I've never led in anything like this," Hanson said. "We'll see what happens towards the end of the day."
Hanson shot a 7-under-par 65 -- the lowest round of the tournament -- and is at 9-under 207, one stroke ahead of Mickelson, two in front of Louis Oosthuizen, three ahead of Watson and four in front of Kuchar.
"It was just one of those rounds that turned into a great round," said Hanson, who is ranked No. 25 in the world. "I got going on the second hole, and from there I was just trying to do the boring stuff."
Hanson bogeyed No. 1, the only blemish on his card. He birdied eight of the remaining 17 holes, including four of the last five.
"The last four or five holes, everything seemed to be going right," Hanson said. "It's just so nice to get into that -- people call it the zone -- and I think I was pretty close to that today."
Mickelson played a ho-hum even-par front nine with no birdies and no bogeys. Then he made the turn and turned it on. He birdied No. 10. He rolled in a long birdie putt on the par-3 12th and gave a little fist-pump. He reached the par-5 13th in two with a 6-iron from 206 yards and buried the eagle putt from about 20 feet that gave him a momentary share of the lead.
"I have not seen Phil all day, and there he is on the leaderboard," Mahan said, as Mickelson played No. 14. "I think that's the greatest example of Augusta in its purest form right there. You can be kind of hanging in there, kind of 2 under, then all of a sudden he has a good stretch and he's in first.
"That's very Phil, and that's very Augusta."
Mickelson topped his eagle -- not in strokes but in artistry -- on No. 15.
His approach with a 5-iron from 235 yards rolled off the back of the green. As only Mickelson can do -- or as only Mickelson has the guts to attempt -- he pulled a 64-degree wedge and popped the ball several stories high before it nestled four feet from the hole.
"There was a lot of risk," said Mickelson, who has rallied from 4 over through the first 10 holes of the tournament Thursday. "It wasn't the safest shot, and that's not where I want to be."
Mickelson painted more artistry with a curling 7-iron from 198 yards on No. 18 to set up his third birdie in three days on the finishing hole, the course's second hardest hole this week. He summarized his back nine in three words: "It was awesome."
The events of Saturday evoked memories from the Sunday of last year's Masters when eight players had at least a share of the lead on the back nine.
This year, on Saturday eight players had at least a share of the lead before McIlroy tumbled out of contention with a front-nine 42 -- similar to the back-nine 42 he shot on Sunday last year.
Garcia, paired with McIlroy, felt similar pain as he bogeyed five of his first 10 holes. They both birdied No. 12 and hugged each other on the green.
"We couldn't really feed off each other's good energy because there pretty much wasn't any," Garcia said. "Our bad holes were really bad, and our good holes were bad."
Second-round co-leaders Fred Couples and Jason Dufner each shot 3 over and are now tied for 11th at 2 under. Lee Westwood and Paul Lawrie simply stalled, both shooting even par. Westwood is tied for sixth with Padraig Harrington and Henrik Stenson. Lawrie is 10th at 3 under.
Mickelson loves his position one shot behind Hanson, who isn't loving the idea of playing with the local legend in the last group.
"I know a one-shot lead over Mickelson is pretty much nothing," Hanson said. "I don't think it matters too much."
All that matters is who comes out on top of the deck just before dusk.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...
related articles »
DORAL, Fla. — Tiger Woods set a personal-best with 17 birdies over two rounds on the Blue Monster. What mattered ...
SAN FRANCISCO -- The lead at the U.S. Open belonged to Michael Thompson. The buzz came from Tiger Woods.
Fred Couple's chronic back problems seem to disappear as soon as he arrives at Augusta National. He feels like a ...
A few months removed from his Masters meltdown, Rory McIlroy is in the lead at the U.S. Open.