Bubba Watson was a popular pretournament pick this week. The long-hitting left-hander has a powerful game suited for the challenging Augusta National course.
He finally made a big move Saturday, carding a 5-under-par 67 that matched the low score of the third round.
He did it in large part by using a pitching wedge instead of his 9-iron on No. 12 — the tormenting par-3 that Watson had double-bogey each of the first two days. His birdie on the 12th was one of seven for him Saturday.
“Hit a soft wedge today — better swing, I guess,” said Watson, who moved into a large group tied for ninth at 5- under 211 for the tournament, seven behind leader Rory McIlroy. “I’d rather make good swings than make bad swings, if that makes sense.”
Sometimes it’s elementary, even for Watson.
Phil barely moves
Defending champion Phil Mickelson shot a 71 Saturday, which put him in a tie for 18th and nine shots out of the lead.
Yet he said Saturday, as McIlroy was on the back nine, that he thinks he can still make a run at a second straight championship.
“I’m going to be quite a few back, but on Sunday a lot can happen,” Mickelson said. “I’ve shot low scores here before, and I’m going to give myself every opportunity to do that.”
Mickelson birdied two of his first three holes to give the impression that he’d make a Saturday charge. But he made the turn at 1 under for the day and shot even-par on the last nine.
“I made some mistakes on the back,” Mickelson said. “I had an opportunity to shoot 3, 4, 5 under on the back but didn’t do it. I had sand wedge and L-wedge into 14 and 17, and those were costly.”
Every golfer looks forward to the Masters. Hideki Matsuyama was especially excited this year.
Matsuyama, the first Japanese amateur to play the Masters, is a student at Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai, the epicenter of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami that killed tens of thousands. He was training in Australia when the earthquake hit.
“Very shocked” was his reaction upon first seeing the destruction.
The 19-year-old was the lone amateur to make the cut and will receive the Silver Cup. He shot a 4-under 68 Saturday and is 3 under heading into today’s final round.
“I was very happy that I was able to come over here and play this beautiful course,” he said before being asked about his impressions of Augusta National. “I thought the greens were very difficult.”
Spoken like a Masters veteran.
Els has a positive
Ernie Els was the first off the tee and breezed through his third round in less than four hours. Els was less-than-enthused about his 4-over 76 Saturday that means he’ll again be among the first out this morning.
He was pleased to say that officials have committed to changing the dates of the South African Open later this year so it won’t be held opposite the Presidents Cup in Australia.
“I think everyone is pretty relieved now,” Els said. “You never want to have two big events clash.”
The Presidents Cup — a team event between golfers from the U.S. against non-European players — is scheduled for Nov. 17-20. Els said officials pledged to move the South African Open back one week
A PGA Tour spokesman acknowledged to The Associated Press that discussions have progressed but stopped short of confirming the date change.
Langer just lingering
Two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer has been relaxing around Augusta National all week after surgery on his left thumb in March prevented him from participating.
“I have another three or four weeks of no movement, and then I can begin rehabilition,” said Langer, who won green jackets in 1985 and 1993. “I don’t like it. I’d rather be inside the ropes hitting shots than being hanging out here. Hopefully I’ll be back next year.”
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...