- The Augusta Chronicle - Saturday, March 30, 2013

When he looks back on the 2012 Masters Tournament, Phil Mickelson doesn’t think about the third-round 66 that moved him within a shot of the lead and into Sunday’s final pairing.

Rather, he thinks about what happened in the final round that cost him a fourth green jacket.

“It goes back to the fourth hole,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson took triple bogey 6 on the par-3 fourth, derailing his hopes. He did play his final 14 holes in 3-under to shoot 72 and finish tied for third, two shots out of the playoff.

His problems on No. 4 started when Mickelson’s tee shot headed for the grandstands to the left of the green. If it had ended up in the grandstands, Mickelson would have received a free drop and would have had what he calls an easy chip in a bid to save his par.

Instead, the tee shot hit the railing on the edge of the grandstands, bounced high in the air and ended up in the bushes. After it took Mickelson two shots to get out of the bushes, he dumped his fourth shot in the bunker. He nearly holed out the bunker shot for five, and tapped in for six.

“He was a bit unfortunate on the fourth,” said Peter Hanson, Mickelson’s playing partner that day.

“Everybody’s got to deal with the breaks,” Mickelson said last month. “Sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t.”

Mickelson was aiming for either the bunker or the grandstands on the tee shot, not the green.

“It wasn’t a bad miss by any means,” he said. “When it hit the metal railing and shot dead left into the trees, that was unfortunate.”

Mickelson knew the pin on No. 4 would be on the front-left on Sunday – it’s a traditional final-round location.

“What’s interesting about that particular shot is I tell guys I play with, that front pin, anything short and anything right and anything long right you can’t get it close,” he said. “You have to go into the bunker. If you go into the grandstands, you’ve got a chip that’s right uphill and you’re going to get it up-and-down seven out of 10 times. So keep it left. Hit it in the grandstands or the bunker. In the bunker, you’re going to make par 80 percent of the time. Maybe more.”

It was the first time the shot on No. 4 had gotten away from Mickelson to the point where it went in the grandstands, he said.

“I’ve hit it up against it,” Mickelson said. “That sliver of green is so difficult to hit. The ideal spot is going to be 40 feet behind the hole on the left edge of the green. That’s where you can make par. I can make par from that bunker just as much as I can from that 40-foot putt.”

The triple bogey on No. 4 was Mickelson’s second triple of the tournament. He lost a ball off the tee on No. 10 in the first round. After the triple on No. 10, Mickelson was 4-over at that point in the first round. He rallied to finish at 2-over-par 74, then followed it with 68-66-72.

He left the fourth green in the final round four shots off the lead and in catch-up mode.

“After the triple bogey, I was playing from behind the whole time,” Mickelson said. “It was disappointing. I needed to make birdies to offset that and I never did.”

Being in the final pairing Sunday – which is the spot where Mickelson won his previous three Masters titles – stamped him as the odds-on favorite going into the final round. It didn’t work out that way.

“It was a great opportunity to collect another green jacket,” Mickelson said.

“I played really well that final round,” he said. “I birdied the par-5s on the back when I was supposed to. I didn’t make any putts (he took 30 putts for the day). I didn’t make any birdies from 30, 40, 50 feet that you need to make there on those Sunday pins that you can’t get it close.”

The bad break on the fourth hole in the final round wasn’t Mickelson’s lone bit of misfortune during the week. He played the par-5 eighth hole in 2-under-par, but it could have been much better.

“The other thing that was costly for me was I hit three of my best drives on No. 8,” he said. “But three times I had mud on my ball so severely that I had 60 to 95 yards left for my third shot when I would have been able to get on the surface if I didn’t have mud. Everybody deals with that on No. 8 because you’re hitting uphill, into the grain and mud gets on it. In Sunday’s final round, I would have been on the green. Instead, I had 95 yards because it snap-hooked over into No. 9 fairway.”

Mickelson took his annual pre-Masters trip to Augusta National on March 5, on his way from his California home to the Cadillac Championship at Doral in south Florida.

“There’s not much work you’re going to get done six weeks prior to the Masters, because it’s not quite in tournament condition. Although, it wasn’t far off,” he said.

“But seeing the course, playing there, and being on the grounds, having breakfast, having lunch there, overlooking the grounds and just playing there, gets me excited about the game,” Mickelson said. “There’s something very spiritual about playing Augusta if you love the game as much as I do, and going there gets me fired up. It also gets me in the frame of mind of getting a sharper picture of the shots that I will have in six weeks.”

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