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Phil Mickelson points to Jack Nicklaus’ ’86 title as inspiration

Phil Mickelson shoots 69 in third round of 2021 Masters
Phil Mickelson, a 3-time Masters champion, shoots 3-under 69 on Saturday to get back to even par entering the final round at Augusta National Golf Club.

After a 3-under 69 lifts him to even par at Masters, Mickelson says he has a chance, however small, to win a 4th green jacket

As a student of golf history and a three-time Masters champion, Phil Mickelson knows that Sundays at Augusta can produce some magical storylines. And he thinks he has a chance, albeit an outside one, to write yet another chapter in that lore.

“It will be fun to have a chance,” Mickelson said Saturday after he played his way back into the conversation at the 85th Masters. “I don’t know that whatever I do will be good enough, but it will be fun.”

Mickelson shot 3-under 69 on Saturday to claw his way back to even-par 216 after 54 holes. He birdied two of the first three holes and followed his only misstep, a bogey at the par-4 seventh, with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 eighth before adding a birdie at the par-5 13th. Mickelson had made the 36-hole cut on the number, at 3-over 147, after rebounding from a shaky first-round 75.

Mickelson referenced Jack Nicklaus and the 1986 Masters, which the Golden Bear won at age 46 for his record sixth green jacket. Nicklaus had stood 2 under after 54 holes, tied for ninth and four strokes behind leader Greg Norman. In one of the most exciting and memorable Sundays at Augusta National, Nicklaus shot a final-round 65 to finish at 9 under and win by one.

Could Mickelson, two months shy of his 51st birthday, make a similar move for a fourth green jacket?

“I didn’t play well enough the first two days and threw too many shots away to give really give myself a legitimate opportunity tomorrow,” Mickelson said. “But sometimes, you get lucky. You come out in a morning like today – it was playable – and you make some birdies. Then the wind picks up, and the leaders don’t go anywhere, and you end up having a chance on Sunday, which is what I am certainly hoping for.”

As the third round resumed late Saturday after a 75-minute rain delay, Mickelson stood tied for 22nd, seven strokes out of the lead. That was before Hideki Matsuyama completed a 7-under 65 to grab the lead at 11-under 205 (scores).

Impossible? No. Improbable? Yes. Then again, how much of a chance did Nicklaus stand entering that final round 35 years ago? Mickelson, a five-time major champion, won the Masters in 2004, 2006 and 2010. The most recent of his 44 PGA Tour victories, which ranks ninth all-time, was more than two years ago, at the 2019 Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

“I’ll need to shoot something in the low- to mid-60s,” he said. “You want that opportunity to do what [Jack] Nicklaus did in 1986, to shoot 65 and have a chance.”

At this point, that’s all that he can ask of his Sunday at Augusta.

Morning Read's Full Coverage of Day 3:

It's Hideki Matsuyama's green jacket to lose, by Gary Van Sickle
Weather delay turned this Masters on its ear, by Alex Miceli
Phil Mickelson claws back to even par and says he's still in it (seriously), by Steve Harmon
Masters total purse includes more than $2 million to winner
Round 4 tee times

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