Lefty leads list of notables south of cut line at Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga. – For so many Aprils his Masters anxiety began, as romanticists claim it does, on the back nine on Sunday.
But for Phil Mickelson, this year it began over dinner on Friday. He was relegated to watching others try and get him inside the cut.
Such is the mystifying metamorphosis of Mickelson here at Augusta National that he left his cherished corner of the golf world on a sun-splashed Friday afternoon not knowing if he would be driving down Magnolia Lane for weekend play. Once an icon, he’s now an enigma – and if you’re having trouble getting your arms around that, you’re not alone.
So is he.
“Physically I feel great. I haven’t had any problems,” Mickelson said after he backed up his opening 76 with a 73 to finish 36 holes at 5-over 149. “Why couldn’t I get it going? You know, I don’t really have a great answer for you.”
And because he couldn’t find any answers, Mickelson headed to his rented home with an anxiety he hasn’t experienced since 1997. That was the year Tiger Woods put his bear hug around the Masters with a historic romp; it was also the last time Mickelson missed the cut here.
Since then, the good times have rolled merrily along these pristine green fairways and through these Georgia pines. Three times a winner, Mickelson has finished in the top 3 eight times, the top 5 10 times, and dynamic have been his efforts. From 1998-2012, a period of 15 Masters, Mickelson played his 60 competitive rounds in a whopping 77 under.
His last six rounds, dating back to last year? He’s 14 over and he’s twice posted 76 and once a 77.
What was most infuriating, perhaps, is that Mickelson played 33 of his 36 holes in 3 under, a score that would have had him sleeping in Saturday and chasing the leaders Sunday. But because Mickelson chopped up the par-3 12th with a triple bogey – as he had made a mess of the par-4 seventh (triple bogey) and par-5 15th (double) Thursday – he was sweating out the cut.
“I keep making these triples. They’re tough to overcome,” said Lefty, who walked to the 12th tee level for the round, 4 over for the tournament, and seemingly in good shape to make something happen.
He did – in a negative way, though, because his tee shot landed in the front bunker and his second shot came to rest in the back bunker. If the patrons were stunned, they were even more so when Mickelson then hit his next bunker shot through the green and into the front bunker again. One more play out of sand, two putts, and Mickelson had again established some Masters infamy for himself.
Thursday, he made his first triple bogey at the seventh. Now, he had his first triple at Golden Bell.
“I end up letting (the momentum get away),” said Mickelson, shaking his head. “Instead of one sliding, two or three are getting away.”
Befuddled, perhaps, Mickelson proved again that he can jump-start the roller-coaster thrill ride at any time. He did so with birdies at the par-4 14th and par-5 15th to get back to 5 over, but he bogeyed the par-3 16th. Seemingly assured of definitely missing the cut, Mickelson then birdied the par-4 17th and negotiated a superb two-putt par at 18 to get back to 5 over.
On so many previous Aprils, the questions at 36 holes revolved around his chase for a green jacket. But on this day, he was asked only about the chances of making the cut.
“Yeah, it’s going to be close. It’s right on the bubble,” said Mickelson. “I was looking at the cut line. We’ll see how it goes.”
It did not go well. With the watch at low 50 and ties, for most of the afternoon the cut was at 4 over, with upwards of 56 players there. Then it drifted downward till the situation was clear: There were 52 players at 4 over or better, which meant Mickelson and the rest of the 5 overs needed Rory McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen to stumble. Instead, Olesen birdied 15 and 17 to get to 2 over and McIlroy, though he was hardly impressive, came home solidly so that at the close of Round 2, there were 52 players at 148 and the weekend tee times were cemented.
Sadly, if Mickelson needed company to commiserate the miss by one stroke, he had plenty of company. Playing competitor Ernie Els (75-74) missed for the fourth time in seven years, and Webb Simpson finished bogey-bogey to miss by one. Others at 5 over included Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Victor Dubuisson and Marc Leishman.
Yes, the same Marc Leishman who began Round 2 birdie-birdie-birdie to get to 5 under and in the lead.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oi, oi, oi?
More like Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Ouch, ouch, ouch, because Leishman followed those three straight birdies with back-to-back bogeys, went out in 38, then came home in 41 for a crushing 79. Talk about first to worst.
“It’s that type of course,” said Leishman. “The wind caught me on a lot of holes. It can jump up and grab you at any time.”
Leishman needn’t tell that to a wide host of players, because plenty of them learned the hard way. To whit:
• Dustin Johnson. Go figure. One of the game’s premier talents, massively long and seemingly the type of player who should overpower Augusta, he went for 77-74 and his streak of made cuts in majors ended at six; he played the par 5s in 2 over. In 18 rounds at the Masters, he’s broken par just five times, only twice in the 60s. It was the first missed cut here, but T-13 is his best finish and three times he’s been no better than T-30.
• Keegan Bradley. He missed the cut for just the second time in 10 major championships, though he really hasn’t figured out Augusta. He went bogey, bogey, double, bogey, bogey starting at the 10th hole, shot 78, and at 9 over missed the cut by a wide spread. He’s 20 over par in 10 rounds here.
• Jason Dufner. He had never shot higher than 75 in 12 Augusta rounds, so the opening 80 was curious. He backed it up with a 74 and missed the cut by a mile. It ended his streak of nine consecutive cuts made in the majors.
• Harris English. Considered the steady force who could be a rare first-time winner, English made just one birdie in Round 2, three for his 36 holes, shot 74-76 and left early.
• Graeme McDowell. He’s on record as saying, “I love Augusta; but it doesn’t love me back,” and once again he has proof. McDowell bogeyed 10, doubled 11, shot 78—150 and missed the cut for the fifth time in seven starts.
• Angel Cabrera. A formidable force here, the big Argentine and 2009 winner shot his highest 36-hole total (78-74—152) and missed the cut for the first time since 2005.
• Matt Every. Having recently earned his first PGA Tour win, his first Masters ended with a sour taste, 77-78.
• Patrick Reed. Another first-timer who had high expectations, Reed began Round 2 with four straight bogeys and had not an ounce of rhythm for two days. He shot 73-79 to fall short.
• Zach Johnson. Backed against the wall by an opening 78, he incurred a penalty stroke on the par-3 sixth when his ball moved and the 2007 champion never got anything going. He shot 72—150 and missed the cut for the third time in seven seasons since he won here.
• Matteo Manassero. So solid Thursday with a 71, the young Italian went out in 41, shot 81 and missed his second straight cut at Augusta.
• Tom Watson. The 64-year-old legend shot 78-81 to miss his fourth straight cut and 11th in the last 12 tries.
• Ben Crenshaw. At 62, he appears ready to end his playing days here. At 83-85 he was dead last of the 97 competitors and hasn’t broken 80 in his last five rounds at a place he adores.
• Matthew Fitzpatrick. The U.S. Amateur champion was just wide with a 15-foot birdie try at the final green and missed by one after shooting 76-73.