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“It’s Thursday,” Mickelson said when asked which day this week has been most important to this run. “Because at some point on this golf course, I’m going to get hot, make birdies, maybe an eagle here or there. At some point, I’m going to get on the leaderboard. Staying in it on Thursday allowed me to make a run.”

Hanson and Mickelson also squared off at the last Ryder Cup, when Mickelson beat Hanson 4 and 2 as part of Europe’s victory at Celtic Manor.

This one’s for the green jacket _ the prize Fred Couples slipped on 20 years ago this week.

Playing great at 52 years young, Couples slept on the lead Friday night, striped his first drive down the center of the fairway, then, in a nod to the cheering fans, turned to the gallery, shrugged and said: “However long it lasts.”

Answer: not long.

He played the first five holes at 4 over before steadying himself with two birdies. He finished at 2 under and doffed his cap to a crowd that still loves him. He’ll have one of the later tee times Sunday _ probably not to contend for the title, but certainly with a top 10 in reach on the 20th anniversary of his crowd-pleasing win at Augusta.

Couples’ playing partner, Jason Dufner, also struggled and shot 75 to finish at 2 under.

But no pairing had it worse than Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. They came into the day a shot off the lead, but neither broke 40 on the front side.

Not waiting for a Sunday to melt down, McIlroy shot 42; Garcia shot 40. It was a terrible twosome and when both players made birdies on No. 12 to stop some of the bleeding, they jokingly hugged as they headed off the green.

They were embracing again as they walked off the 18th green.

“If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?” McIlroy said in a joint TV interview with Garcia. “It’s good to have this guy by my side even if we didn’t play so well.”

Playing much earlier in the day was Tiger Woods, who began his round hoping to make up at least some part of an eight-shot deficit. After an even-par round in which he couldn’t control his swing, he was exactly where he started _ 3-over par and needing the leaders to move backward over the remainder of the day. They didn’t and he’ll start Sunday from 12 out _ the biggest deficit he’s faced at the Masters.

“I was so close to putting it together today,” Woods said.

Close, but still not quite there. For the second straight day, and only the fourth time in his career at the Masters, he played all four par-5s without making an eagle or birdie. He is 1-under on the par 5s for the tournament _ a statistic that gets you nowhere at Augusta National.