AUGUSTA, Ga. — Peter Hanson already has one Masters championship. Today he’ll be going for the real one.
Hanson grabbed the lead of the 76th Masters on Saturday, capping a seven-under-par 65 with a tap-in birdie on the final hole. It left the 34-year-old Swede alone at the top of the leaderboard at nine under par.
“It’s a new situation to me,” Hanson said. “I’ve been up on the leaderboard a few times, but I’ve never led in anything like this. We’ll see what happens towards the end of the day.”
Hanson will begin today’s final round one shot ahead of fan favorite Phil Mickelson, who slaughtered the back nine on Saturday in 30 strokes en route to a 66.
“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 greatest thing in professional golf.”
Hanson won the Scandanavian Masters in 2008 in his home country. He began the third round three shots behind co-leaders Fred Couples and Jason Dufner and bogeyed the first hole. Then he went wild, rattling off eight birdies over the final 17 holes while the leaders faltered badly.
“It’s just so nice to get into that — people call it the zone or that peak performance — and I think I was pretty close to that today,” Hanson said.
Mickelson, meanwhile, began to make his move with a birdie at the 10th hole, where he made triple bogey in the first round. Another birdie at the par-three 12th kept him going. An eagle at the 13th earned a fist pump, and an all-or-nothing flop shot at the 15th hole set up another birdie.
“There was some risk in that one,” said Mickelson, who opened with nine pars on the front nine.
He then birdied the final hole for the third day in a row.
Mickelson’s eagle brought one of the roars for which Augusta is known, and Hanson heard it.
“That was one of those special kind of Masters moments that I’ve been watching so many times TVâ€‘wise,” Hanson said. “You hear the crowd going wild when he made the eagle. It kind of helped me on 14. 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 and picked up another birdie on 15.”
Mickelson, who has three Masters wins was four over par through 14 holes of the tournament. Since then, he’s played 40 holes in 12 under.
“When I look back on this tournament, I go back to Thursday and where I was standing after 10 holes and in a position with some very difficult holes coming up to let the round really slide and the tournament slide,” he said. “But I fought hard to get a couple back, knowing I wasn’t going to get them all back in the first round, that there was plenty of golf left, that I would get a hot hand at some point.”
Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen was in third at seven under after a 69. Bubba Watson played the final six holes in three under par to shoot 70 and move into fourth place at six under par. Matt Kuchar was tied for the lead at one point. He finished with a 70 that left him five under par and alone in fifth place.
Eight players held or shared the lead on Saturday, a day in which most of the guys near the top of the leaderboard disappeared quickly and quietly.
Couples shot 75, Dufner 75, Rory McIlroy 77 and Sergio Garcia 75.
That left a whole new group ready to climb into contention, and Hanson led the charge.
Four players — first-round leader Lee Westwood, Hunter Mahan, Padraig Harrington and Henrik Stenson — were tied for sixth at four under par.