AUGUSTA -- Phil Mickelson was confident he would be able to make some noise in the third round of the Masters.
But despite his well-placed positive feelings -- he has won the tournament three times, after all -- Mickelson wasn’t able to do much Saturday.
The defending champion looked good early but scrambled his away around the Augusta National Golf Club layout to the tune of 1-under-par 71. Mickelson is now 3 under after rounds of 70-72-71.
“I felt like it was right there (Saturday),” Mickelson said. “I felt like there was an opportunity to do it. But I didn’t capitalize on some of the crucial holes. It was very close; it was right there for the taking.”
Mickelson appeared to be ready to be the one to take the course down early in his round.
He came alive with birdies on the second and third holes to get to 4 under for the tournament. But that was followed by a bogey, and then he had five straight pars to close the front nine. On the back nine, Mickelson had a bogey on the 11th and a birdie on the 15th, but other than that, he had seven pars.
“I expected to come out this week and light it up,” Mickelson said. “And I have struggled to get the right reads. I have struggled getting the right speed, which historically I’ve been able to read these greens very well.
“And I feel like I know the breaks on most of the putts, but I just have struggled getting it going this week.”
Mickelson pointed to his putting as the problem this week, but the biggest culprit has been his ball-striking. Mickelson has hit only 19 of 42 fairways through three rounds, ranking last among the 49 players who made the cut.
He scrambled well enough to rank tied for 14th in greens in regulation, but he will still start well before the leaders in the final round.
“I’m going to be quite a few back, but on Sunday a lot can happen, so I’m not counting myself out,” Mickelson said. “I’m going to go do whatever work I need to do to give myself the best round, a hot round (Sunday). I’ve shot low scores here before, and I believe I can do it again.
“I’m going to give myself every opportunity to do that.”
That confidence, again, comes from Mickelson’s history in this course. He has finished in the top 10 in 13 of his 18 Masters appearances, and his low round in the tournament is 65.
“It is a great feeling to cruise around Augusta knowing that I’ve won on this golf course,” Mickelson said. “That’s just a terrific feeling, having already accomplished the feat. It kind of takes some of the stress away because it’s a tournament that I’ve dreamt about winning as a kid, and to be able to know that I’ve done it, I think that relieves some of the pressure of wanting to win it so bad to be a part of this history.”