When you post a score, and get to a number, and it stands up against the field for a day, you still have to play the weekend. From the vantage point of Friday, it promised to be a volatile couple of days at the Masters.
Fred Couples knew they were coming for him, and if he’d shot par on Saturday he’d be solidly in play. But on an idyllic day at Augusta National Golf Club, the leaderboard went stormy, and Couples got caught in the maelstrom.
Couples shot 75, steadying himself after an unfortunate start, and he’s still in it at 2 under par. Rory McIlroy, a shot off the lead after 36, played himself out of contention with a Saturday 77.
For the largest part of the day, names like Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner and Louis Ooosthuizen took their turns on top of the leaderboard. Oosthuizen (7-under) will be in the next-to-last group with Bubba Watson, whose stealth 70 on Saturday left him alone in fourth at 6-under.
Nobody mentioned the name Peter Hanson on Thursday or Friday, and a second-round 74 scared no one. On Saturday, he hit irons straight as power lines and made his putts — eight birdies — in a round of 65. At 9-under, he earned the target on his back heading into Sunday, and the guy closest to him has won a couple-three of these things playing in the final group.
Phil Mickelson nailed a long eagle putt on 13, precursor to the shot of the tournament on 15. He got big air under a full-swing flop shot that landed soft, when a low-running chip would have blown through the green.
“This is going to land like a sack of flour,” commentator David Feherty said. “No one hits that shot. No one.”
Mickelson topped the jewel on 15 three holes later, when he shaped a left-to-right bender from a blind lie 237 yards from the hole that found the green within makeable distance.
“He buttoned it,” was the way Nick Faldo called it on TV.
Mickelson made the difficult putt, for birdie, to finish at 66, 8 under par. Lefty had 30 on the back nine.
Hanson is a likeable fellow from Sweden, but the noise on Saturday was for Mickelson.