Phil Mickelson’s dream of winning a fourth green jacket began with such promise. It ended prematurely.
The 47-year-old was one of the red-hot favourites heading into the 82nd Masters, having won the WGC Mexico Championship and recording three other top-10 finishes during the past two months.
His bid appeared to be on track as he opened his campaign with a two under 70 to be just four shots adrift of overnight leader Jordan Spieth. But it didn’t take too long into the second round to realise it was going to be a long day ‘Lefty’.
Mickelson's opening drive flew 290 yards into the trees left of the fairway. Typically, he found an escape route and fashioned a slicing, punch iron shot that finished just a few steps off the front fringe of the green and he made his par.
He found the middle of the fairway at the long par-5 2nd and was able to convert that good position in the fairway into a birdie that saw him inch closer to the leaders.
The wind was really sucked out of Mickelson’s sails on the par-4 9th hole when he pull hooked a drive well right into the trees. As he has done so many times in his career, he kept the foot on the accelerator and tried to minimise the damage with a miraculous escape shot. Instead, this time, his shot found the middle of a lone tree and ricocheted into a garden thick with azaleas. He was then forced to take an unplayable lie drop and ultimately notched up a triple bogey 7.
Despite the calamity, he was not out of touch with the leaders as the increasingly breezy conditions played havoc with scoring. He bounced back with a birdie on the 10th but finished the remainder of the back nine in five over, including three bogies and a double bogey at the par-3 12th where he dunked his tee shot into Rae’s Creek. He signed for a seven over 79 to go with his opening round 70.
"... There's a fine line between wanting it so bad and then also letting it kind of happen. As you get older you feel a little bit more pressure each one (major) because you don't feel as though you have an unlimited number of events." – Phil MIckelson.
“Yeah, it was a rough day,” Mickelson said.
“I thought the course played great. I thought the conditions were challenging, but I thought everything about it was a good fair test.
“You play well you can shoot under par and I don't know what's happened the last couple of days, it's a little disappointing.
“I've been playing so well this year, to play like this. But it's disappointing, it is my favorite tournament of the year and it's a rough couple of days.”
The three-time Masters Champion, who was aiming to break Jack Nicklaus’ record as the oldest winner of the Masters, said his ball-striking was off in round one but he thought he had managed to fix the problem before the second round.
“I thought we had kind of fixed it and I was pretty excited,” he said.
“I had a pretty good warm‑up, I was hitting it great. Then on the 1st hole I blocked it again and I was a little worried the rest of the round and that was kind of the case, I didn't quite have it again.
“But the conditions here were a little more severe and so the misses were magnified.”
Mickelson scraped into the weekend on the cut line and now that he is unlikely to contend on Sunday, he might be relieved of some of the pressure to win.
“This is disappointing … there's a fine line between wanting it so bad and then also letting it kind of happen,” Mickelson said. “As you get older you feel a little bit more pressure each one (major) because you don't feel as though you have an unlimited number of events.
“So given how well I was playing heading into this, I certainly put a lot of pressure on myself to perform this week and get it, because I know the opportunities here are lessening here … especially given as well as I've been playing, I thought this was a great year, a great opportunity.”