A Masters deflated by the early foibles of Fred Couples and Rory McIlroy was re-inflated by Phil Mickelson's magic show on the back nine on Saturday. Magic, of course, is illusion. Did we just see what we saw?
Mickelson's flop shot from behind the green at 15 was fraught with disaster in the hands of lesser men -- from a thin lie, to a fast green sloping away from him, with water on the other side. No one else would have considered attempting it.
"He has to think that's not the option," CBS' Nick Faldo said, "but saying that, that means Phil will go for it."
Indeed, Phil the Thrill had his 64-degree wedge in hand, laid it wide open and hit a shot that might come to define this Masters, should he win on Sunday.
"No one hits that shot. No one," CBS' David Feherty said. "If this doesn't make every hair on your body stand up you need therapy. Nobody but Mickelson even thinks about trying a shot like that."
Let's go to the replay, via Twitter:
-- Graeme McDowell: "That shot Mickelson just hit was a joke. I can't tell you how good that was. #flopperfection"
-- Steve Elkington: "Phil hits a mind blowing flop @ 15..... Touch of a pick pocket."
-- Paul Goydos: "Phil!! WOW!!"
Mickelson, in his post-round interview with Bill Macatee, acknowledged, "there was risk in that one."
What about Tiger?
So much for those complaints that the networks show too much Tiger to the exclusion of everyone else. Woods' round was over before Saturday's telecast on CBS began. He was still shown, but only a brief highlight/lowlight package of his indifferent round of 72.
The most provocative explanation for Woods' struggles came from Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee: "The genius of Tiger Woods has been coached out of him."
Aaron Oberholser hit on a similar theme, on Twitter: "Tiger has forgotten more about this game than [Sean] Foley knows. Just play man. Just play," he wrote.
Nice comedic moment captured by CBS, which showed Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy playfully hugging it out after both made their first birdies of the day at the 12th hole.
Couples quick trip south
Notah Begay III was one of several players the Golf Channel brought aboard to help analyze the Masters, and he contributed this observation about Fred Couples' warmup:
"I noticed that when he was in the bunker and hitting a few chips he was working through the shots awfully quickly. One of the things we've always loved, that we've always known, is that he's laid back with a really fluid swing. But he seemed to be working through it faster. When he was walking to the first tee I thought that was the fastest I've ever seen Freddie walking anywhere."
Couples, indeed, was out of sorts from the outset on Saturday, dropping four strokes in his first five holes.
"Freddy unfortunately feeling the pressure today," Faldo said after Couples failed to get a lob shot to the green at No. 5.
Faldo on Westwood's putting and chipping: "He tends to get kind of a pushy action, a little wooden in both those areas. Doesn't quite have that softness, that flow in your wrist in that transition between backswing and follow through. Is that going to hold him up once again?"
An Augusta National euphemism for grandstand?
Macatee called it a "patron observation platform."
Golf Channel's Mark Lye: "Wow! This is gettin good! Who needs the 'cat' when golf is this great? Long nite in store for Hansen, fantastic round."
Comment: Obviously, the cat to whom he was referring was Tiger.
Joe Ogilvie: "96 guys off 1 tee shouldn't take 5 hours, let alone 6. Golf's greatest shame is the pace it takes the worlds best to complete a round."
Comment: Ogilvie's Twitter avatar features a cap with the inscription "SLOW PLAY" inside a red circle with a red slash through it. An admirable crusade, we'd say.
-- John Strege