AUGUSTA, Ga — The ball rattled around the Georgia pines at Augusta National and eventually fell beneath one on top of some pine straw. A few minutes later, up strolled Phil Mickelson.
He was in trouble. He sat 2-under for the tournament, just one shot off the lead of the Masters, but now here he was staring down a narrow corridor of trees leading back toward the fairway and up to the ninth green.
He’d of course been in this position before, most famously in the final round of the 2010 Masters when he stuck a six-iron from an impossible position in the straw at 13 that lead to his third green jacket.
As the normally jovial Mickelson approached his ball Friday, there was no familiar smile, no playfulness with the gallery. Only a stern look on his face as he contemplated how he was going to get out of jail and back onto the green.
He dug his feet into the straw, swung his club a few times to make sure it wouldn’t clip a low-hanging branch, and swung.
Thwack! One tree. Thwack! A second tree.
Fans lined up in front of him began ducking for cover, not knowing where the now not-so-friendly fire was coming from.
His ball eventually ended up in an azalea bush, though where no one knew exactly. Eventually a CBS crewman pointed it out, Mickelson took a look and didn’t hesitate. He’d take a drop from the original spot.
And that is how in the span of only a few minutes, Phil Mickelson went from one shot off the lead to his worst score ever at the Masters.
He’d punch out from the trees on his next shot, then needed three more to hole out en route to a triple bogey.
From there his round went like this: birdie, bogey, double bogey, par, par, par, bogey, par, bogey.
The final result: a 7-over 79, matching his worst round ever at Augusta National. (Mickelson shot a 79 in Round 2 of the 2016 Masters.)
“I just hit the tree,” Mickelson said after his round. “There was plenty of a gap, I just pushed it trying to run a 2‑iron down there in front of the green and get up‑and‑down, salvage par. I was even for the day, 2‑under for the Tournament, and I just thought it wasn’t a hard par, I didn’t think, if I just chased one down by the green. But it, I pushed it into the tree and it went in the bushes and made triple.”
And now the wait is on to see if he will make the cut. Mickelson is 5-over for the tournament. The projected cutline at publication is … 6-over.
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