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April 7 2012

11:22 PM

Rd. 3 recap: Hanson leads, Phil’s the chaser

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Phil Mickelson will start the final round one stroke behind Peter Hanson.

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- On a day in which eight different players had at least a share of the lead, Sweden's Peter Hanson emerged as the solo leader after 54 holes at the Masters.

But his playing partner in Sunday's final pairing will be the heavy crowd favorite -- Phil Mickelson, who will enter one shot behind Hanson as he seeks his fourth Green Jacket.

Hanson shot the day's lowest round, a 7-under 65, finishing with consecutive birdies to move to 9 under. Mickelson electrified the crowd with a 6-under 66 that included an eagle at the 13th and a back-nine 30 that was one stroke off the record at Augusta National.

It will be the third round this week that Hanson and Mickelson have played together.

"We've played a lot of golf together, and it's just great to play in front of big crowds like it is here," Hanson said. "With all the support being behind him, hopefully it can feed off a little bit towards me, as well."

Said Mickelson: "I love it here and I love nothing more than being in the last group on Sunday at the Masters.  It's the greatest thing in professional golf."

The third-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win the Masters 41 (out of 75) times, most recently Angel Cabrera in 2009. The eventual Masters champion has come out of the final Sunday pairing 19 out of the last 21 years, with Zach Johnson (2007) and Charl Schwartzel (2011) the exceptions.

In third place is 2010 British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen at 7 under. He'll be paired with Bubba Watson, who is another stroke back.

But plenty of other players are lurking, hoping to produce that one low round to rise up the leaderboard. Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood are each with five shots of the lead and hope to apply some early heat on the leaders.

The largest comeback at the Masters after the third round is eight strokes (Jack Burke, 1956). Burke was eight behind Ken Venturi through three rounds but edged Venturi by one with a closing round of 71 (compared to Burke’s 80).

Fred Couples and Jason Dufner, the 36-hole co-leaders, faded on Saturday, each shooting 3-over 75. Also falling back were playing partners Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. McIlroy suffered two double bogeys on the front nine and shot 77, while Garcia shot 75. Neither made a birdie until the 12th hole.

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