AUGUSTA — Here are my three “short takes” on the third round of the Masters at Augusta National. A full column on the rejuvenated Phil Mickelson’s climb up the leaderboard at 11-under par — which is only five strokes off the lead — will be posted soon.
UPDATE: Here’s a free link to a column on the charging Phil Mickelson on MyAJC.com.
1. Ghosts of Greg Norman? The odds still favor 21-year-old Jordan Spieth winning his first Masters. But he planted a seed of doubt Saturday. After birdies on the 15th and 16th holes to go to 18-under, Spieth double-bogeyed No. 17 and finished the day at 16-under, only four strokes better than Justin Rose and five ahead of Phil Mickelson. Spieth was 2-under Saturday but his 70 followed rounds of 64 and 66. Is a collapse forthcoming? As long as Spieth doesn’t channel Greg Norman, he should be fine. Norman, whose career was punctuated by blown leads in major tournaments, entered the final day of the 1996 Masters with a six-stroke lead over Nick Faldo. But a final round of 78 buried him. Faldo shot a 67 and won by five strokes.
2. Foreshadowing by Justin Rose? Nobody was talking about Phil Mickelson going into the week. Is anybody talking about Justin Rose now? He tied with Mickelson and Ian Poulter for the best round at 5-under. More significant: He had five birdies on the back nine (Nos. 13, 14, 15, 16, 18). Not that you should need any reminding but the Masters has a history of being decided on Sunday’s back nine. Somebody gets hot, somebody folds. This will be the first time Rose will play in the last group of a major. It sets up as a great final round with Spieth (-16), Rose (-12), Mickelson (-11) and Charley Hoffman (-10). Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are nice window dressing on the leaderboard but both are 10 shots off the lead.
3. Good Tiger, Bad Tiger (but Better Tiger): Woods is back, kinda sorta. He birdied four of the first eight holes is on the leader board at 6-under. Given how the last 18 months had gone, that’s a significant step forward in his comeback. But consistency remains and issue and Saturday we also witnessed Woods’ fire/temper/competitive instinct (depending on your perspective). His club went flying and he let go of an expletive (or three) after hooking a horrendous tee shot on the par-5 13th hole into the pine straw. Woods made a spectacular birdie on the hole but then bogeyed No. 14. He finished the day at 4-under with six birdies and two bogeys.
•Some recent ramblings from the digital jukebox — MyAJC: Jordan Spieth toying with Augusta, Masters’ field — AJC: Masters short takes: Spieth’s historic run, and the other guy — MyAJC: Woods is back, or he’s not, or he is, or he’s not… — AJC: Masters short takes: The future (Spieth) and the past (Crenshaw) — AJC: It’s Masters morning and old guys have laready withdrawn — MyAJC: On eve of final Masters, Ben Crenshaw embracing every moment — MyAJC: Woods loose, confident, but is he really ready for Masters — MyAJC: Braves stop the noise with opening victory — AJC: Short takes: Small ball, Teheran, bullpen and a Braves’ win — AJC: LIVE: Braves (or what’s left of them) open series vs. Marlins — AJC: Braves’ deal saves budget (Upton) but drives nail in season (Kimbrel) — MyAJC: Trade reaffirms Braves’ decision to go backward before forward — MyAJC: With expectations low, at least Braves won’t underachieve — AJC: Hawks’ biggest nightmare: Millsap suffers shoulder injury — MyAJC: Hawks’ turnaround started with trade of Joe Johnson — and he knows it — AJC: (Updated) Hank Haney was right — Tiger Woods to play in Masters — AJC: Braves’ deal for Trevor Cahill illustrates concerns about rotation — MyAJC: Real news would be Tiger Woods making shots — AJC: Tiger Woods’ plane in Augusta but status for Masters still uncertain —