Peter Hanson is atop the leaderboard.
Louis Oosthuizen won the 2010 British Open.
No one hits the ball farther than Bubba Watson.
But this is Phil Mickelson’s Masters.
First, there are the numbers. Phil is in the final group (with Hanson). Of the last 21 Masters champions, 19 have come from the final group. Phil has won here three times. In 2004 he began Sunday with the lead, shot 69 and won. In 2006 he did the same thing. In 2010, he was one back of Lee Westwood, only to fire a 5-under 67 and win comfortably.
Bottom line, he has been here and performed well in the situation before.
The same cannot be said at the Masters for the other three. Hanson is a Masters rookie. Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 was the last one of that rare breed to win in his debut. Oosthuizen had never made the cut at the Masters until now, and Bubba has never won a Major.
Phil is putting great (fewest putts in the field so far), is virtually the only guy in contention who knows he can win (only two former Champions within 10 shots of the lead — Phil and Fred Couples) and is 12 under par on his last 44 holes (after starting 4 over through 10 on Thursday).
So now Lefty is playing for history.
A win and he’ll be just the fourth to win at Augusta four times. When you can sit eye-to-eye with Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods (both with four Masters) and only defer to Jack (six) at the tournament the sport cherishes more than any other, then you become much more than just the second best player of your era.
Mickelson is one round away from vaulting from Hall of Famer to legend.
A win Sunday would be his 41st on the PGA Tour, placing him ninth all-time but far more importantly it would be his fifth major. Jack with 18 and Tiger with 14 make it look like winning these things is routine if you are a great player. Au contraire! How hard is it to win five majors? Byron Nelson and Seve Ballesteros, a couple of pretty fair players in their day, each won five Majors. Only 10 men have won more than six.
But a win Sunday would also be significant because Phil is 41 years old. In the 21st century that may seem young but in almost every historical instance a golfer’s prime is his 30s. So much so that since World War II there are only three golfers to have won more than one major since turning 40 (Nicklaus and Hogan with three and Mark O’Meara with two). While Phil still looks and feels good (no major injuries, just some arthritis) Hanson, Oosthuizen and Bubba may have far more chances to win majors than Lefty.
Even at Augusta.
Because you just never know in golf. After all, Tiger Woods hasn’t won a major in four years.
So while the numbers and history seem to be on Phil’s side, there is a fine line between daring and disaster.
Heartbreak and history.
Especially Sunday on the back nine of the Masters.
What line will Phil cross? Only he knows.
Because it is his tournament to win or lose.