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Australians want to end their oh-fer at Augusta

April 14, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The Aussies have had enough of their oh-fer at Augusta National.

Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Jason Day are in the top five heading into Sunday’s final round at the Masters, giving the Australians perhaps their best chance at ending their excruciating drought at the club. The Masters remains the only major an Australian has never won.

“It’s hard to say exactly what it means. I’d rather not sit here and wonder so much, I’d rather do that if I win” Sunday, said Scott, a stroke behind leaders Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera. “But, look, Aussies are proud sporting people, and we’d love to put another notch in our belt, just like any great sporting country.

“This is one thing that one of us would like to do tomorrow, for sure.”

It’s not as if the Australians haven’t had their chances.

Scott and Day were in the hunt two years ago, finishing second to Charl Schwartzel. And who can forget Greg Norman’s heartbreaks? Jack Nicklaus shot a 30 on the back nine in 1986 to take the green jacket from him. The next year, Larry Mize chipped in from 140 feet during a playoff.

And no one will ever forget 1996. The Shark had a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo, only to gag it all away with a final-round 78.

“It’s a great opportunity for all of us to be the first,” Day said. “There’s been some great Aussies in the past that have had an opportunity to win the Masters and fell short a little bit. So if it happens tomorrow, that’s great.

“If it doesn’t, then we’re going to keep plugging away.”


BAD MOVES: Phil Mickelson made a big move at the Masters.

In the wrong direction.

He made back-to-back double bogeys on 11 and 12 on Saturday on his way to a 5-over 77. He’s now 8 over for the tournament, no threat to add a fourth green jacket to his collection.

“I just played terrible. There’s no way around it,” Mickelson said. “I’m just not hitting very good golf shots, missing it in bad spots and not really knowing which side I’m going to miss it on. So my play has been beyond terrible, and that’s certainly disappointing.”

At least Mickelson didn’t back up as far as his Ryder Cup buddy, Keegan Bradley. The 2011 PGA Champion posted the worst score of the day Saturday, a 10-over 82, and is in last place heading into the final round.

Mickelson took last week off, a rarity for him before the Masters, and he was nervous about being rusty when he took on Augusta National. With good reason, apparently.

Except for a stretch early on the back nine Thursday, he’s been struggling. With a 76 on Friday, he’s shot back-to-back rounds over par for the first time since 2007.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve been struggling with my ball-striking,” Mickelson said. “The putter actually feels good even though I missed a bunch. The ball-striking, I just don’t know where it’s going to go.”

While his scores may not reflect it, Mickelson is still having a blast. His wife Amy and their three kids are here this week, and Mickelson got to see them after his second double-bogey Saturday. Rather than wallowing in his poor round, he was going to have lunch his family.

“Where else would you rather be than Augusta National with this kind of weather on a weekend? It’s just spectacular,” he said. “Certainly I wish I played better, but it sure is fun being here.”


REIGN ENDING: Bubba Watson is about to be replaced.

The defending Masters champion made up some ground with a 2-under 70 on Saturday. But at nine strokes back, and with some big names in front of him, he knows his chances of winning a second straight green jacket are pretty slim.

“I’d have to shoot a real low one tomorrow to have a chance,” Watson acknowledged. “But I’ll come out tomorrow and just enjoy the walk as my last day as defending champ.”

An odd number of players made the cut and Watson was the first one out, so he played with a marker. They made their way around Augusta National in a blistering 3 hours and 20 minutes, a nice change from the almost six-hour rounds from the first two days.

Better yet? Jeff Knox, who holds the non-tournament course record from the members’ tees, is a Georgia alum like Watson.

“I met him about 10, 12 years ago,” Watson said. “So it was fun hanging out with him and just enjoying the day.”

Watson will have another reunion Sunday. He’s paired with Charl Schwartzel, who, as the 2011 Masters champion, had the honor of putting the green jacket on Watson after he won.


TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE: Tim Clark had his best round ever at the Masters on Saturday, a 5-under 67 that also was the low round of the day.

Quite a surprise considering his struggles on the green just a day earlier.

“Not a bit,” Clark said when asked if he’d spent time on the putting green between Friday and Saturday’s rounds to work out the kinks. “I just kind of went home and tried to forget about it and just come out with a good attitude again. I mean, that’s all you can do. The worst thing I could have done yesterday was probably go and practice and grind over it.

“I just had to kind of let it go.”

Beginning Saturday at 2-over, Clark birdied five of his first seven holes. He would get to 4 under with a birdie on the par-3 16th, but bogeyed the 18th. That put him at 3-under 213 for the tournament, which was good enough to keep him in contention when the course firmed up later Saturday.

Clark is four strokes behind co-leaders Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera.

“It was gettable for me today, being firmer, the fairways being firmer anyway. And going off early, the front nine, the greens are somewhat receptive,” Clark said. “So I was able to get some birdies early and sort of try and hang on.”


DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL: Almost nobody at Augusta National had a better day Friday than ESPN.

The network boasted its best ratings in the four years it has broadcast the second round, averaging 4.2 million viewers and a 3.3 rating. That was a 6 percent increase over last year and the fourth-largest audience ever to watch golf on cable. Among both the 18-34 and 18-49 male demographic, the jumps were 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

The only ESPN telecasts that drew better ratings were the Thursday round at the 2010 Masters, when Tiger Woods returned after a sex scandal erupted the previous November (4.9 million average); the 2008 U.S. Open playoff (4.8 million); and the final round of the 2012 British Open.

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