- Associated Press - Saturday, April 7, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Phil Mickelson set off roars at Augusta National with a 20-foot eagle putt for a share of the lead, and an amazing flop shot behind the 15th green that only he would dare try.

Peter Hanson answered with four birdies on his last five holes, claiming some of those cheers for himself and taking the outright lead Saturday in the Masters with a 7-under 65, the lowest score of the tournament.

What a finish — and it’s all just beginning.

“Fortune favors the brave at times here,” Padraig Harrington said.

“When you’re leading a tournament, that’s not the type of golf course you want to be on,” he added. “You want to be on probably a boring golf course — which this ain’t.”

Fred Couples hits out of a bunker on the second hole during the third round of the Masters golf tournament Saturday, April 7, 2012, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Fred Couples hits out of a bunker on the second hole during ... more >

That much was evident on a day filled with cheers from every corner, a prelude for a final round that would figure to favor Mickelson.

Hanson, a 34-year-old Swede playing in only his second Masters, has never been closer than seven shots of the leaders in his previous 17 majors. He goes into Sunday with a one-shot lead over Mickelson, who already has three green jackets.

Hanson passed his first test.

He was walking up the 14th fairway when he heard a commotion that shook Augusta. He knew what it was without looking — Mickelson draining an eagle putt on the 13th hole, raising the putter with his right arm and slamming down his left fist to celebrate along with 15,000 of his best friends.

“I’m standing in the middle of the fairway and I feel him breathing down my neck a little bit,” Hanson said.

Hanson followed with an approach into 2 feet for birdie, a 15-foot putt from the fringe on the 15th, a 30-foot birdie putt over the ridge on the 17th and one last birdie at the 18th with a shot that stopped inside 3 feet from the cup.

He was at 9-under 207.

“I’ve been watching this tournament since I was a young kid, and seeing Freddie Couples and the guys go and shoot 30 and 31 on the back nine is something you just dream about,” Hanson said.

Mickelson shot 30 on the back and signed for a 66, putting him in the final group at the Masters for the fourth time in the last nine years. Lefty won the last three times he was in that spot.

“I love it here, and I love nothing more than being in the last group on Sunday at the Masters,” Mickelson said. “It’s the great thing in professional golf.”

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