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Friday, 19 March 2010

Phil Mickelson captured the third Major Championship of his career and his second in succession by capturing the 70th Masters Tournament by two shots from South African Tim Clark at sun-drenched Augusta National in Georgia. The 35 year old Californian joined an elite band of five golfers who have won the preceding week then slipped on a Green jacket seven days later.

 

Mickelson followed up his BellSouth Classic victory with an admirably consistent final round of 69 for a seven under par total of 281. Clark, the current Barclays Scottish Open champion, holed a bunker shot at the last to match Mickelson’s 69 for a total of 283.

 

No fewer than five players tied for third place, most notably two-time Masters Champion José Maria Olazábal of Spain, who made a dramatic charge towards a third Green Jacket by shooting the lowest round of the week, a stunning six under par 66 for 284.

 

Olazábal set the clubhouse target early in the afternoon just as Mickelson, the 2005 US PGA Champion, was embarking on Augusta’s notorious back nine, but guessed he might be going home without another green item of clothing.

 

He was joined in third place by Chad Campbell, 1992 winner, Fred Couples, South African Retief Goosen and defending Champion Tiger Woods, who ended his title defence by birdieing the last hole for a round of 70.

 

Reigning BMW Champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina conjured up a superb 68 to tie for eighth place with Fijian Vijay Singh, who closed with a 71 for 285.


History was in favour of Mickelson and Couples, the last group out of the golf course. For the past 15 years, the winner had come from the last pairing and so it proved again.

 

The American left-hander birdied the seventh and eighth to break clear of a tightly bunched leaderboard and played the back nine in a conservative 35 to ensure that Woods – the man upon whom he bestowed the Green jacket 12 months ago – returned the favour this time around.

Couples, at 46 aiming to become the oldest Masters Champion, was in superb form from tee to green but missed several putts from inside five feet as his victory hopes faded.

Olazábal, whose six under par 66 was the best round of the week, reeled off five birdies and one bogey to reach the turn in 32. The Spaniard then struck a superb five wood second shot from 246 yards to 18 inches for an eagle at the 15th to briefly join Couples in a tie for second on five under. For a moment, it seemed possible that the Spanish Ryder Cup man could conjure up another magical moment at Augusta National.

Although he slipped back with a three-putt bogey at the par three 16th, he parred the last two holes to finish at four-under 284.

"I thought I needed to go six (under) to put pressure on these guys," he said. "When I three-putted 16, I tried to force the situation on 17 and 18 and made two pars in the end.

 

“It was a special moment after hitting that wonderful shot on the 15th” he added. “The three putts at the 16th killed me but I have no complaints at all. I went out to try and shoot low and after turning in 32, I thought, okay, see how well you can play on the back nine. At least I feel at peace with myself around here. I was relaxed and enjoying myself.”

Holder Woods, chasing a fifth Green Jacket, clawed his way into a share of second place with his third birdie of the day at the 16th. The American, chasing an 11th Major title, had been let down over the opening holes by his putter in his bid to edge closer to Jack Nicklaus’s total of 18.

 

Another Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jiménez, shared the lead briefly at four under par after an outward 33, but three putts from close range at the tenth put paid to his title chances. He said: “I was leading, but not for long enough, unfortunately!

 

“After the tenth it was a struggle to get the momentum back , but these things happen at Augusta. Overall it was a good week for me to finish just outside the top ten. It is always nice to play well in a Major. I gave myself a chance but it wasn’t enough.”

 

Cabrera, who hit a six iron to 35 feet for an eagle at the 15th, placed his hopes of closing with three straight birdies. However the task proved beyond the Argentine and he settled for a highly creditable 68 to tie Singh for eight place.

 

He said: “The eagle on 15 put me in a very good position. My caddie and I felt at the time that six under par might be the target.”

 

Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke had looked a possible title contender after birdieing the first hole of his final round. However Clarke was unable to find the bottom of the hole with a cold putter and he shot 77 for a share of 22nd place, five places  below Padraig Harrington of Ireland who closed with  a 74 for 292.

 

England’s David Howell battled well, closing with a level par 72 thanks to a trio of birdies from the 13th. His total of 290 left him in a share of 19th position.

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