AUGUSTA, Ga. — Reporter to Lee Westwood: “In 35 minutes, you went from being five ahead of Phil Mickelson to being one behind.”
Westwood: “Glad you were timing it. Seemed quicker (laughs).”
Westwood walked to the 11th green on Saturday with a five-shot lead in the Masters. He played the 10th, 11th and 12th holes in even par but walked off the 12th green with just a one-shot lead. By the time he got to the 13th green, his lead was gone. It’s not that Westwood had done anything particularly wrong. It had everything to do with what Mickelson had done right.
As Westwood ambled to his ball right of the 11th green, the giant scoreboard behind the green ticked over to reveal his birdie at the 10th to go to 12 under par. There was an “ooooh” from the fans, as if collectively they had shouted, “Blimey, this Englishman is sticking around.”
Mickelson, meanwhile, was 7 under and on 13th green. Then bam! A huge roar. The scoreboard ticked over. Mickelson had eagled the 13th. Westwood, who would par the 11th, had company.
The Englishmen made the short walk over to the 12th tee. Then bam! Again. Mayhem. The roar was way too loud to be a birdie. Mickelson couldn’t possibly have holed his second shot at 14, could he? “The 14th isn’t a birdie hole,” said one fan. “It’s barely a par hole. It certainly isn’t an eagle hole.” On this day it was. Mickelson had indeed holed his shot from the fairway.
The scoreboard ticked over. Mickelson had leaped to 11 under par. There were whoops and hollers from the fans watching the action at 11 and 12. Westwood, playing in the last pairing with Ian Poulter, knew something special was happening ahead of him. “I didn’t have to look at the scoreboard,” he said after his round. “I was well aware that somebody was making a charge, and I figured it was Phil. But what Phil Mickelson does is really out of my control. The only thing I can control is what I do.”
Westwood made bogey from the front bunker at 12 while Mickelson had a tap-in birdie at 15. Like that, Mickelson was at 12 under, alone in the lead, a shot ahead of Westwood. “You have a fair idea where people are on the golf course,” Westwood said. “I heard a cheer when I was coming down 11, I figured he made the crowd behind the 12th there cheer when he made eagle.”
Westwood answered with a birdie at the 15th while Mickelson was making bogey at No. 17. The Englishman has his lead back. But he takes only a one-shot advantage into the final round, when he will be paired with Mickelson, a two-time Masters champion.