Saturday stats: Hanson-Mickelson unbeatable
(Paul Lawrie has the lowest world-ranking among the top-10 competitors at The Masters. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
__ 1.__ World rankings of the contenders: Peter Hanson 25th, Phil Mickelson 14th, Louis Oosthuizen 27th, Bubba Watson 16th, Matt Kuchar 18th, Hunter Mahan fourth, Padraig Harrington 96th, Henrik Stenson 171st, Lee Westwood third, Paul Lawrie 186th.
__ 2.__ Since the first full season of the world rankings in 1987, the average position of Masters winners is 15.44, by far the lowest among the four majors. That said, the last five champions ranked 56th (Zach Johnson), 29th (Trevor Immelman), 69th (Angel Cabrera), third (Mickelson) and 29th (Charl Schwartzel). Only three other men have won a green jacket from outside the top 30: Larry Mize (36th in '87), Ben Crenshaw (33rd in '95) and Jose Maria Olazabal (34th in '99). Finally, Mickelson has won at Augusta National when ranked eighth (2004), fourth (2006) and third -- and was fourth when he claimed the 2005 PGA Championship.
__ 3.__ If they joined as a better-ball team in the third round, a Hanson-Mickelson side would have posted 11-under-par 61. Hanson suffered the only bogey, at No. 1, yet gained 10 spots with his 65. Mickelson's 66 caught up nine spots, capped by his 14th career birdie at the 18th, his third straight of the week. His incoming 6-under 30 equaled his back-nine score in the first round in 1995. That finished off a 65 that gave Mickelson his first taste of being a round leader at Augusta National; he finished T-7. PS: Hanson and Mickelson met in singles of the 2010 Ryder Cup. Mickelson made six birdies en route to a 4-and-3 triumph (but Hanson and his teammates have their names engraved on the trophy).
__ 4.__ Hanson is enjoying one of the hottest streaks of his career, one that would be the envy of most players in the field. Going back to Oct. 2 last year and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour, he has placed in the top 10 in eight of 14 starts. Among his best are a solo third in the UBS Hong Kong Open and solo fourth in the Dubai World Championship to end 2011, then T-2 at the Qatar Masters and T-4 in the WGC-Cadillac Championship four weeks ago. Hanson stood 52nd in the world ranking entering the Dunhill Links but rose to a career-best 24th after the Cadillac.
__ 5.__ Tiger Woods gained two spots with a 72 but stood a seemingly impossible 12 shots behind Hanson. It was the second straight day for Woods without a birdie at any par 5, only the third and fourth such instances in his Masters career. Friday and Saturday also represented two of the four times he failed to make a birdie on the incoming nine at Augusta National (third round in 1995 as an amateur, first in 2003). Technically speaking, there are two other times he went birdie-less on the back nine -- the fourth round in 2007 and first in 2008 -- but he did make an eagle each of those days.
__ 6.__ The scoring average of 72.937 was the highest for a third round since brutal 2007 (77.352) and pushed the week's average to 73.656. The first hole again ranked No. 1 in difficulty (4.429) after giving up zero birdies. In fact, eight holes gave up fewer than 10 birdies Saturday to the 63 players.
__ 7.__ The dozen players who began play after Mickelson's 1:45 p.m. starting time racked up an 73.08 average. The final pairing of Jason Dufner and Fred Couples (75 apiece) were matched by Sergio Garcia while edging Miguel Angel Jimenez (76) and Rory McIlroy (77).
__ 8.__ First-time Masters round leader Hanson becomes the 12th man to post his only lead of a preliminary round after 54 holes. Although that list includes such luminaries as Julius Boros, Tom Kite and Tom Weiskopf, the only eventual champions were Claude Harmon (1948) and Bernhard Langer (1993).
__ 9.__ Only four players in the top 10 entering the final round have won a major: Mickelson, Oosthuizen, Harrington and Lawrie. The other six contenders own a total of 26 finishes in the top 10, although 12 of those belong to Westwood, who begins Sunday five behind Hanson. PS: Westwood has never shot better than 67 to close a major. Of course, this year on the PGA Tour eventual winners have rallied in the last 18 from deficits of seven (Brandt Snedeker/Farmers Insurance Open), eight (Kyle Stanley/Waste Management Phoenix Open), six (Mickelson/AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) and seven (John Huh/Mayakoba Golf Classic).
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