AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The biggest surprise through 36 holes? After a second-round 73, Phil Mickelson missed the cut in a Masters Tournament for the first time since 1997.
Mickelson began the week with the most accomplished Masters record of anyone in the field. He had finished in the top 10 in 12 of the last 15 Masters and had three wins. With Tiger Woods out, Mickelson’s three green jackets were the most in the event. The only players with two were Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson. Each name on that list is obviously past his prime.
This week may be a sign that Mickelson is, too.
Friday looked like a passing of the guard from one free-wheeling left-hander to another as Mickelson fought to make the cut while Bubba Watson carved up the back nine to seize a three-shot lead to enter the weekend. Watson made two bogeys in two rounds; Mickelson carded two triples.
Phil said earlier in the week he was “nervous” that injuries had derailed his start to the season and, along with it, part of his Masters preparation. But he also declared himself healthy and ready to go. With these two disappointing rounds, he continued a troubling trend that dates back to last year’s 54th place finish at the Masters. In his first 79 rounds at Augusta, he had four rounds of 76 or worse with a scoring average of 70.97. His last six rounds? 71-76-77-73-76-73.
“It was okay,” Mickelson said after signing his card Friday. “I didn't play great. I didn't play bad. I keep making these triples. They're tough to overcome. I felt there were some birdies out there. The greens were receptive, and the wind is what made it tricky. There were some birdie pins out there. If you played well you could make some birdies.”
Mickelson curled in a short putt on the par-5 8th to offer a glimmer of hope for a vintage birdie run -- but he immediately extinguished the momentum with a blown four-footer and a bogey on No. 9.
On the par-3 12th, which is playing as the second-toughest hole this week, things got even worse.
His tee shot was on line, but landed a full club short in the front bunker. Mickelson said the ball settled on an upslope with no sand, and he bladed his bunker blast over the green and into yet another sand trap. From there, he opened the face of his wedge, took a full swing and sent it flying past the pin -- and into the same front bunker he started in. His third bunker shot still didn’t find the green, and his double-bogey attempt from the collar didn’t even reach the hole.
He tapped in for a triple bogey, his second of the tournament.
"That's what I've been nervous about is having a hole like 7 yesterday, a hole like 12 today, where I go along, making pars, putting the ball in the right spot and you just get a bad situation,” Mickelson said. “And instead of one [stroke] sliding, two or three are going away. That's the kind of stuff when you're playing tournament golf and you're mentally sharp you don't do. And that's the kind of stuff I seem to be doing right now.”
He’ll be watching Augusta from his couch like the rest of the world, as another Lefty -- Watson -- tries to win his second green jacket on a course that Mickelson used to own.
“That will kind of be my punishment,” Mickelson said.