AUGUSTA, Ga. — Phil Mickelson kept yanking balls into the trees, and even had an unexpected brush with nature right on the green. Still, he had the lead at the Masters.
Mickelson won a third green jacket Sunday after an incredibly trying year.
Already a fan favorite and now the sentimental pick with his wife and mother battling breast cancer, Mickelson rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the signature 12th hole — the heart of Amen Corner — then managed a stunning shot off the pine straw and around a tree to set up another birdie at the next hole.
Mickelson finished at 16-under par and threee shots ahead of 54-hole leader Lee Westwood.
Hard-charging Anthony Kim finished with a 7-under 65 that sent him to the clubhouse clinging to hope Mickelson would falter.
The other contenders faded away, most notably Tiger Woods, who struggled all day with a shaky swing off the tee and never made a serious push for the lead.
His big highlight was holing out from the seventh fairway for an eagle, and he had another eagle at the 15th, but an inexplicable three-putt bogey from about 6 feet at the 14th doomed his chances. He finished four strokes behind Mickelson.
Woods wasn’t the only one to feel Augusta’s bite. Fifty-year-old Fred Couples dumped a shot in the water at the 12th, leading a double-bogey that stifled his bid to become golf’s oldest major champion. K.J. Choi looked steadier than anyone until two straight bogeys knocked him from a share of the lead to four shots behind.
Kim started the day seven shots behind before surging up the board, climbing within a shot of the lead with an eagle at 15 and a birdie at 16. After closing with two pars, all he could do was watch Mickelson finish out his round in the last group of the day.
Mickelson started with seven straight pars, his best chance at birdie knocked off line when his putt at the par-5 second struck a pollen pod that fluttered into the line of his ball just before he drew back his club. He didn’t notice it until it was too late, and his ball actually hopped into the air and skidded wide of the cup.
Mickelson finally made a birdie at the par-5 eighth, then scrambled mightily to keep his score right where it was. He drove into the trees at both the ninth and 10th holes, but managed to get back in the fairway and pull off nifty wedge shots that set up short par putts.
The birdie at No. 12 — the same spot where he dumped a ball in the water to ruin his hopes a year ago — gave him the outright lead. Another errant drive at the next tee left him with a pine tree in his face. Instead of playing it safe, he swung hard and went right around it, the ball clearing the creek in front of the green and dropping down about 4 feet from the cup.
Mickelson squandered the chance to really give himself some breathing room, missing the eagle putt, but the birdie left him two shots clear of the field for the first time. The lead grew to three when he made a two-putt birdie at the 15th.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Full story: Mickelson claims third green jacket