Peter Hanson of Sweden reacts after his birdie putt on the 17th hole to put him in sole possession of the lead going (9-) into the final round of the Masters.
AUGUSTA --- Peter Hanson heard the unmistakable roar just over his shoulder.
He knew exactly where it came from, and like everybody else at Augusta National, it inspired him.
“That was one of those special kind of Masters moments,” said Hanson, who was standing in the middle of the No. 14 fairway when he heard Phil Mickelson’s eagle on No. 13.
Hanson found a way to match all of Mickelson’s roars during Saturday’s third round — and there were many.
The native of Sweden who had never made the cut at The Masters before this year will go into today’s final round at 9-under with a one-shot lead over Mickelson.
Hanson fired a 5-under 31 on the back nine to finish with a 7-under 65 Saturday, breaking away from the cluttered leaderboard. A Hanson birdie on No. 18 is all that separates him from Mickelson, who shot a 6-under on the back nine and compared the afternoon to the 2010 Masters when he won his third green jacket.
“I just feel really confident in the way I’ve been playing and the way I’ve been putting and in this setting and on this golf course,” said Mickelson, who has come a long way since starting the opening round 4-over through 10 holes.
“I love it here and I love nothing more than being in the last group on Sunday at the Masters. It’s the greatest thing in professional golf.”
Fred Couples and Jason Dufner began Saturday with the lead and fan-favorites Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia were only a shot back, but none of those four remain in the Top 10 of the leaderboard, which was jumbled until Hanson and Mickleson began their back-nine surges.
Not far from everyone’s mind but now 12 shots back from the lead was Tiger Woods, who was busy losing his temper and falling apart on the back nine. Woods, a four-time Masters champion who is on the brink of his worst finish in Augusta since he missed the cut in 1996, shot even par and moved to a tie for 38th at 3-over.
Woods, however, was merely an afterthought as the afternoon made way for low scores thanks to calm, mild conditions. Two golfers taking advantage of the pleasant weather were Georgia grad Bubba Watson, whose 70 put him in fourth place at 6-under, and Georgia Tech grad Matt Kuchar, who also fired a 70 to move to fifth place at 5-under.
Louis Oosthuizen bogeyed No. 18 to fall back to third place at 7-under, while Hunter Mahan, Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and Paul Lawrie round out the rest of the Top 10.
Watson, who started the day tied for third, was well aware what was going on around him.
“I didn’t sense them. I heard them,” Watson said, referring to the roars erupting around the back nine. “We knew that somebody was lighting it up, and then another started lighting it up and then another guy. We could hear the roar, so obviously there were birdie holes out there.”
Hanson started Saturday with a bogey but quickly bounced back with a birdie on No. 2 and never looked back. He finished the round without another bogey and had seven more birdies, including a stretch where he birdied four of his last five holes. Everything seemed to be working for Hanson, who was a little surprised himself to go as low as he did.
“People call it the zone or that peak performance, and I think I was pretty close to that today,” Hanson said. “To shoot 65 around here, I’ve been watching this tournament since I was a young kid, and you know, seeing Freddie Couples and the guys go and shoot 30 and 31 on the back nine is something you just dream about.”
Hanson matched Mickelson blow-for-blow during his dream-like back nine. With four birdies and an eagle after an even-par front nine, Mickelson landed plenty of blows in the second half of his round --- but none were bigger than his eagle on No. 13 when he knocked down an uphill put after sticking a 6-iron on the green.
“You hear the crowd going wild … It kind of helped me on 14,” Henson said about the eagle. “I’m standing in the middle of the fairway and I feel him breathing down my neck a little bit and manage to get mine close on 14.”
Every time Mickelson lowered his score, Hanson had an answer.
“Well, I’m sorry I was helping him out,” Mickelson said with a laugh. “Didn’t look like he needed it.”
Woods, on the other hand, could have used quite a bit of help.
Woods had Augusta National buzzing with birdies on the third and fourth holes, and he had a decent look at birdie on the fifth hole that would have brought him to even par.
However, he settled for a par four on No. 5 and bogeyed the sixth and ninth holes, leaving him visibly frustrated as he made the turn. His composure started to slip when he hooked his drive deep into the trees on No. 13, slammed his club on the ground and shouted a profanity.
“Certainly I’m frustrated at times and I apologize if I offended anybody by that,” Woods said. “But I’ve hit some bad shots and it’s certainly frustrating at times not hitting the ball where you need to hit it.”
The outburst happened one day after Woods kicked his club after a poor shot on No. 16, a moment he addressed after Saturday’s round.
“Well, I certainly heard that people didn’t like me kicking the club, but I didn’t like it either,” Woods said. “I hit it right in the bunker and didn’t feel good on my toe either.”
Woods, who came into the tournament with soaring expectations after his victory two weeks ago at Bay Hill, continued to struggle on the par fives --- holes that he has traditionally owned at Augusta.
“I would like to say it was poor driving, but then I drive in the fairways and then miss into a bad spot or I would miss the drive and then compound the problem from there or (hit) two really nice shots up there or three good shots up there in a position where I could make birdie and then I would miss,” said Woods who is just 1-under on par fives in the tournament and parred all four of them Saturday. “It was just one thing after another.”