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Hanson Vaults into Lead at Masters after Stellar 65
Peter Hanson fired a brilliant 7-under-par 65 to reach 9-under 207 through 54 holes of the Masters. The 34-year-old Swede is one-shot ahead of Phil Mickelson, who's valiantly climbed back into contention after opening with a 2-over 74.
After a bogey on the first hole, Hanson, a four-time winner on the European Tour who's yet to triumph in America, rebounded with three birdies on the front nine to make the turn in 2-under 34. On the back, the 6'3' player making only his second start at Augusta National had five birdies for a 31. His 65 is the best round of the tournament.
Hanson, who will be paired with Mickelson in the final group, is hoping to keep his cool in the final round. "Emotions, of course," he said of what he needs to do Sunday. "That's going to be the biggest thing. .
"This is kind of a new situation to me, being in the spotlight like this, and playing in the last group. So it's going to be about controlling my emotions and trying to be in the present and trying to play the same kind of golf that I've been doing today."
As for how he'll spend Saturday night, Hanson remarked, "I'm just going to enjoy time with family. Try to get some sleep and be ready for tomorrow."
After his disappointing start, three-time Masters' winner Mickelson has crafted rounds of 68 and 66 to get to 208. On Saturday, he still attributed his two birdies in the final four holes on Thursday as the key to his success this week. "At some point I'll make some birdies. The way I fought back gave me a chance to move up the leaderboard.
"My putting has been so good - I've worked so hard on it in the off-season."
Mickelson hit the shot of the day on the par-5 15th. After his second shot landed in a tight lie right of the green, Lefty hit one of his patented, full-swing 64-degree wedges to 6 feet and made the putt for birdie. That bit of handiwork helped him to a 6-under 30 on the back nine - one-stroke off the all-time record - following an even-par front.
"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."
Two strokes behind Hanson is 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. After a bogey on par-3 fourth, the South African reeled off three birdies on Nos. 6-8 to make the turn in 2-under 34. He had two more birdies on the back, with his only slip being a bogey on the par-4 18th when his approach landed on a grassy slope right of the green and he couldn't get up and down.
"I felt in control of the swing - I felt calm out there," Oosthuizen said. "I wanted to put myself close to the leaders so I have a chance tomorrow."
After a 70, Bubba Watson is in solo fourth at 210. The long-hitting lefty from Bagdad, Fla., carded five birdies and three bogeys Saturday. His final birdie came on the 18th. "It was good," Watson said of his round. "Finished up good on the back nine. I'm still right there - have a chance tomorrow."
Alone in fifth at 211 is Matt Kuchar (70), while tied for sixth at 212 are England's Lee Westwood (72), three-time major winner Padraig Harrington (68) of Ireland, Hunter Mahan (68) and Sweden's Henrik Stenson (70).
Scotland's Paul Lawrie carded a 72 and is in 10th at 213, while tied for 11th another stroke back are Italy's Francesco Molinari (70), Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson (70), England's Ian Poulter (70), and Americans Sean O'Hair (71), Nick Watney (72), Ben Crane (72), Fred Couples and Jason Dufner.
Starting Saturday as the 36-hole co-leader with Dufner, Couples, the 1992 Masters winner, slipped to a 75. The 52-year-old gallery favorite got off to a rugged start with bogeys on his first two holes and a double on the par-4 fifth. He birdied the par-5 eighth for an outward 3-over 39. Things stabilized on the back with two bogeys and two birdies - but Couples couldn't re-create his Friday charge when he got the attention of the golf world with a 5-under 67.
Dufner's 75 included two birdies and five bogeys.
One of the pre-tournament favorites, 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, had a tough day at Augusta National with a 5-over 77. The 22-year-old had a horrible front nine with two double-bogeys and a pair of bogeys for a 6-over 42. He managed three birdies and two bogeys on the inward half.
McIlroy's playing partner, Sergio Garcia of Spain, also wasn't lighting up the course, shooting a 75. Garcia posted a 40 on the front nine.
When both players birdied the famed par-3 12th, they gave each other a mock hug in celebration. Later, McIlroy quipped, "We both needed a hug then. We didn't have our best stuff today."
Added Garcia to laughter, "We couldn't really feed off each other's energy because there wasn't any."
No. 1-ranked Luke Donald is probably ready to head home. The 34-year-old Englishman has shot 75, 73 and 75 and is tied for 52nd at 7-over 223 through three rounds. Four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods posted a 72 - his second of the tournament along with a 75 - to go to 3-over 219 and T-38th.
The low amateur is Hideki Matsuyama. The 20-year-old from Japan, who won the 2011 Silver Cup as the low amateur at last year's Masters, has acquitted himself well again with rounds of 71, 74 and 72 to stand at 1-over 217.
So Hanson - a virtual Masters' rookie who missed the cut last year - and steely veteran Mickelson will go toe-to-toe in Sunday's final round. But with 17 players within eight shots of the lead - and Amen Corner awaiting them all, anything can still happen in the 76th Masters Tournament.
For all the scores, visit http://www.majorschampionships.com/masters/2012/scoring/index.cfm.