They say the Masters doesn’t start until the back 9 on Sunday. Thatta way to get viewers, CBS!
Since he’s really the only guy I have any interest in, we’re going to pick up with Tiger Woods on 9 and hope that last night’s combination of KJ Choi troublemaking and Washington Road didn’t sap his legs. Let’s do this.
The first I hear from my father this morning… 11:34 via text: “B Chamblee is an idiot.” I can tell he’s already in fine form. I can also tell that’s it going to be a challenge to type with a phone in hand all afternoon.
4:30 Tiger at -8 thru 8; Leaders Westwood and Mickelson at -12 thru 8
After an utterly disastrous first 6 holes played at 3 over par, Tiger rebounds with a fairway hole-out on 7, a birdie on 8 after a worm-burning 3-wood from the primary cut, and is sitting two on the par-4 ninth with a 15-footer to move to -9. For the first hour or so of coverage, this tourney looked like it could be more anticlimactic than a night with Larry King. No more. KJ Choi’s been on the leaders’ heels all day and Fast Freddie Couples, still sporting hipster shoewear at 50, is doggedly trying to one-up Phil for loudest gallery roar.
4:35 Tiger at -9 thru 9; Leaders at -12 thru 8
Jim Nantz: “That’s an amazing turnaround.” He’s speaking of course of one Tiga Tiga Woods, Y’all who just moved to -9 and puckered the sphincter of everybody on the leaderboard. Meanwhile, Phil sprayed his drive on 9 into the left side trees, laid up to 30 feet short of the green, and flopped a 64 degree wedge up to about four feet. Ballsy. There’s a reason the man has two Green Jackets and his own short game video.
4:44 Tiger at -9 thru 9; Leader Mickelson at -12 thru 9
Englishman Lee Westwood, who’s got a career 76+ scoring average in the final round of the Masters, yips a 5-footer on the low side for par. First chink in the armor all day. Also Mick’s first outright lead of the week. Nance: “Now the tournament really begins.” I think I called that about an hour ago… On cue, Phil hits a power shank off the 10th tee that lands somewhere in Atlanta and Choi drains an 8-footer 300 yards up ahead to move to -12. Augusta Vice Chair Joe Ford reminds us that we’re getting 56 minutes of coverage every hour. Three thousand miles away, Robb Hilson is smiling.
4:57 Tiger at -9 thru 10; Leaders Mickelson and Choi at -12 thru 10
Mickelson, perhaps drawing strength from the all-black wardrobe that proves a tremendous upgrade from Friday’s Oreo outfit and yesterday’s Leprechaun garb, knocks a 35-yard pitch from in front of the 10th green to 6 inches. Disaster averted. Same for Westwood, who squeaks in a 4-footer to stay at -11. Up ahead, Tiger’s stuck in Sherwood Forest on 11 after a typically errant drive. A shot later, he’s still in the pine needles… And then sticks a wedge over the trees to six feet after Nick Faldo – winner of six majors – says he’s got no chance of getting up and down. Good call, Nick. No seriously, good call. Tiger slides to -8 after missing the putt.
5:09 Tiger at -8 thru 11; Leaders Mickelson and Choi at -12 thru 10 and 11, respectively
Text message from my father on Friday night: “I don’t understand what’s so hard about 12.” Couples puts a wedge into the water. Double. Tiger lines a nine iron – or as he likes to call it, “Smash” – into the back bunker, and then almost knocks the comebacker into the water. Pops is shaking his head. Or he will be – he’s on DVR in San Francisco. Unacceptable. I blame him 100 percent for Tiger’s lackluster performance. Just bad vibes. Bad, tape-delayed vibes… Tiger drains his par putt from the fringe to stay at -8. Choi holes a 4-foot tester to hold the co-lead.
5:18 Tiger at -8 thru 12; Leaders Mickelson and Choi at -12 thru 11 and 12, respectively
Young gun Anthony Kim is putting together a round more sneaky than a Tiger Woods, all of a sudden moving to within one of the lead after a birdie, birdie, eagle stretch on 13, 14 and 15. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods hits it CC Sabathia off the 13th tee (Read: fat). Really fat. Tiger’s driver has been astray all day… Wait, can I say that? Also of note, Lee Westwood’s blazing yellow UPS logo looks ten times more offensive stitched to a bright red shirt. Of greater import, Mick just buried a 20-footer on 12 to take the outright lead. He gives a Tiger-esque fist pump. Sadly, if he wins his fourth major, my father will have to cut back on Phillis man-boob jokes. You know, out of respect.
5:38 Tiger at -8 thru 12; Leader Mickelson at -13 thru 12; Anthony Kim at -12 thru 16
A year after Anthony Kim put together 11 birdies in one round, the kid makes a bomb at 16 to move to -5 in his last four holes. I’ve done this twice, both times in the same dream. Meanwhile, Tiger, who “has no tempo and no rhythm right now” claws back to -9 after almost holing his third from the fairway on the par-5 13… I should probably mention Lee Westwood right now, if only because if he wins, I’d look pretty stupid for neglecting him. And then there’s Phil, who just hit the shot of the tournament and, according to Peter Kostis, “the shot of his life.” Remember Sergio at Medinah? Pretty much the same thing, except this one means something. Phil splits two pines on 13, rolling his miracle to three feet for eagle. In typical Phil fashion, he whiffs on the putt, settling for bird.
5:50 Leader Mickelson at -14 thru 13; Westwood at -12 thru 13; Kim at -12 thru 17
Tiger takes the wind out of my sails by three-jacking from six feet on 14. My allegiance has shifted to Anybody Not Phil, except for Westwood – I can’t root for a guy who wears white shoes on Sunday. That’s an affront to manhood… Kim’s drive into the right fairway bunkers on 18 and subsequent beach play on the next shot means that this tourney is Mick’s to lose. 2006 Winged Foot, anyone? Phil shudders as he envisions his drive on 18 finding a garbage can.
6:07 Leader Mickelson at -14 thru 14; Kim clubhouse leader at -12; Westwood at -12 thru 14
Tiger drains his Tiger-record fourth eagle of the tournament on 15, which bodes well for his bank account, but not for his putter… which I imagine he chucks into a pond as soon he signs his scorecard. Say what you want about Woods, but the guy has no quit in him. While Phil measures his second shot on the par-5 15, Kim buries a long par putt to stay at -12. Probably a moot point – Mickelson knocks an ice-cold long iron to about 20 feet for eagle, cozies up the putt, and moves to -15. Westwood checks up short on a pitch from behind the green – and in typical Brit fashion – chokes mightily on a 5-footer. David Feherty says something about “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” I’d make a joke here, but Phil looks like a rock. I mean, not physically… You know what I mean.
6:20 Leader Mickelson at -15 thru 15; Westwood at -12 thru 15
Phil makes a workmanlike three on the par-3 16th. I’m rather devastated, but perk up a bit with this text message from Bryan: “New bloggy post idea for the week. Fake text message transcripts from the sure to be upcoming Phil Mickelson sex scandal.” Gotta admit, the kid’s creative.
6:32 Leader Mickelson at -15 thru 16; Westwood at -12 thru 16
Jim Nantz: “It proved to be the right decision to come to Augusta.” Agreed, Jimmy. Tiger walks up the 18th fairway to – I never thought I’d say this – an underdog’s applause, and curls in a 10-footer for birdie to a standing ovation. He finishes one off the clubhouse lead, but I say this is a victory any way you play it. No other man on Earth could do what Tiger did this weekend. Nobody. And you know he feels good about the next two majors – U.S. at Pebble, British at St. Andrews.
6:40 Leader Mickelson at -15 thru 17; Westwood at -13 thru 17
Mickelson holes a clutch 5-foot tester on 17 to stay two clear of Westwood. He then pulls an Anti-Phil, going with three wood off the tee and sticking his second from the right fairway rough in tight. Meanwhile, Tiger in his post-round interview after being questioned about his typically fiery on-course demeanor: “I think people are making way too big a deal about this thing.” Translation: F*** you, Peter Kostis… Amy Mickelson, looking typically fine, escorts the kids greenside. Phil cruises to a third Green Jacket, cooly burying a birdie on 18 to finish at -16.
“That’s a win for the family,” says Nantz, in a transparent bid to stir about 100 different conflicting emotions. Ouch. Mickelson sleeps like a baby tonight. You wonder if Tiger sleeps at all.