By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- In 2008, Robert Karlsson tied for eighth at the Masters, which remains the highest finish ever by a Swede in the season's first major championship.
"I hope it will be broken by two today," the good-natured Karlsson said Sunday after finishing off a round of 71.
Two of his countrymen, Peter Hanson and Henrik Stenson, were still awaiting their tee times in the final round of the 76th Masters. Hanson, who finished in the top-five at both World Golf Championships this year, owns a one-stroke lead at 9 under and will play with Phil Mickelson in the final group.
Meanwhile, Hanson's childhood friend, Stenson, trails by five.
A Swede has never won a major championship. Jesper Parnevik finished second at the British Open in 1994 and '97 while Niclas Fasth did the same in 2001. Karlsson would love for that drought to end on Sunday.
"Obviously it would mean a lot," Karlsson said. "Swedish golf has been close a couple of times with Jesper, he's had a few chances. Peter's never been this close but he showed earlier on this year that he can play well with the best players. Now it's just for him to see if he can put together another good round.
"Obviously, it will not be easy with Phil in the last group even though Phil is a great guy to play with so it's not that. But the atmosphere if Phil starts to play good, it's going to be challenging. Hopefully (Peter) can feed off it as well. So we'll see."
Karlsson is eight years older than Hanson so the two didn't really get acquainted until both were playing on the European Tour. They did team up once in the World Cup, though.
"He's a very, very solid player," Karlsson said. "I thought if he was going to win one of these it most likely was not going to be this one because his game is more set up for a U.S. Open-style golf course because he's a very very solid ball-striker. This is more of a long-hitter's and short game course, which I probably wouldn't say is his stronger suit.
"But if he keeps playing like he's doing, he's definitely taken a step up and developed a lot this year and proven to himself that he can play under these circumstances. So that's good."