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Who will win the 76th Masters?

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By JAY COFFIN

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Phil Mickelson will charm the Augusta National patrons once again and will collect a fourth green jacket, which will tie him with Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods.

The back-nine 30 Saturday to close within a shot of the lead was pure magic. The birdies on 10 and 12, the eagle at 13, the flop-shot birdie at 15, the birdie at 18 for the third consecutive day will not go to waste. They ultimately will mean something.

Plus, the numbers don’t lie. Nineteen of the past 21 Masters winners have come from the last group. Mickelson is paired with Peter Hanson in the final group.

It’s not just that Mickelson will win, it’s that there aren’t many around him capable of winning.

Hanson has never been in this position, Bubba Watson has proved that he can’t quite handle the heat, Matt Kuchar has never won a major and Hunter Mahan has the game, but he’s spotting Mickelson four shots. Aside from Mickelson, only Louis Oosthuizen has won a major among the top five on the leaderboard.

Mickelson will walk away with the victory Sunday. It’s only fitting that he walks away with green jacket No. 4 on a week that began with nothing but hype for Woods and Rory McIlroy, two men who are nowhere to be found.


By REX HOGGARD

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The echoes around Augusta National late Saturday afternoon as Phil Mickelson charged in with a back-nine 30 to pull within one stroke of the 54-hole lead were matched only by the chorus of cries proclaiming the 76th Masters over.

But if history – the tournament’s, Lefty’s and Hunter Mahan’s – is any guide officials may want to hold off on pressing Mickelson’s fourth green jacket just yet.

Mahan is the game’s hottest player right now, a two-time winner this season, including last week’s Shell Houston Open, and an anchor of swing coach Sean Foley’s stable, a group which has won four of the last seven PGA Tour events.

Mahan was also nearly as flawless as Mickelson was on the back nine Saturday, closing with a 33 to move to 4 under par, five off the lead held by Peter Hanson but, more importantly, just four behind Mickelson.

That’s Mickelson. You remember him, right? The guy who began the week 4 over par through his first 10 holes. The guy who could shoot 65 on Sunday, or 75. And the guy who has won three green jackets since 2004.

It’s why we love watching Mickelson, and why dismissing Sunday as a formality would be a mistake almost as egregious as writing off Mahan. No, this Masters isn’t over. It’s really just begun.


By JASON SOBEL

AUGUSTA, Ga. – In  honor of a two-time Masters champion, I’m about to go all Ben Crenshaw on you: “I have a good feeling. That’s all I’m gonna say.” Actually, I had a feeling about Peter Hanson back on Wednesday, prior to the first round of the tournament.

It was a combination of things, really. Hanson has played very well so far this year, putting together a T-5 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and T-4 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He’s a very good ball-striker, underrated amongst the world’s best. And for whatever reason, I’d heard a handful of colleagues whispering his name – not as much as those of Tiger and Rory, but enough to pique my attention.

Really, though, I liked Hanson because he fits the bill of this decade’s prototypical major champions. He’s in the world’s top 30, owns a strong resume with a handful of international wins and was flying completely under the radar entering the event.

Remind you of anyone? It should. That also describes last year’s champion, Charl Schwartzel.

Hanson will play with Mickelson on Sunday, but that shouldn’t come as anything new. He played a pressure-packed match against him two years ago at the Ryder Cup and competed with him during the first two rounds of this week’s tournament.

In fact, it should be comfortable for Hanson, who can simply continue flying under the radar – all the way into Butler Cabin.