AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson acknowledged that he was running out of chances to add a fourth Green Jacket to his wardrobe after the left-handed American suffered a second-round meltdown at the U.S. Masters on Friday.
The 47-year-old Mickelson can feel Father Time creeping up and with his advancing years comes the extra pressure of knowing that he does not have many more trips to Augusta when winning will be a realistic scenario.
He is already past the age of the oldest Masters champion, Jack Nicklaus, who was 46 when he rolled back the years with a stunning Sunday back nine to win for the sixth time in 1986.
Mickelson was motoring along nicely at two-under for the tournament until he came to a screeching halt with a triple-bogey wreck at the par-four ninth, where his second shot from the woods clattered against a tree and ricocheted into a bush.
“There was plenty of a gap. I just pushed it into a tree trying to run a two-iron down there,” a dejected Mickelson told reporters at Augusta National.
The disaster set the tone for a disappointing back nine, where he dropped four more shots to card a 79 and make the cut with nothing to spare at five-over 149, an insurmountable 14 strokes behind leader Patrick Reed.
“I thought the conditions were challenging, but I thought everything about it was a good fair test,” added Mickelson, refusing to blame a capricious wind for his problems.
“I don’t know what’s happened the last couple of days to play like this. It’s a little disappointing, because I’ve been playing so well this year.
“It is my favourite tournament of the year and it’s a rough couple of days.”
Mickelson made no bones about the urgency he feels.
“As you get older you feel a little bit more pressure each (Masters) because you don’t feel as though you have an unlimited number of events,” he said.
“So given how well I was playing heading into this, I certainly put a lot of pressure on myself to perform this week and get it.
“I thought this was a great year, a great opportunity.”
Mickelson, the 2004, 2006 and 2010 champion, was not the only player flying high on the leaderboard early on Friday but nowhere to be seen by the end of the day.
Matt Kuchar had a brief spell at the top but fired a 75 to finish the day eight strokes off the pace, while China’s Li Haotong started three shots off the lead but fell 10 behind following a 76.
Li, however, was delighted with his position, which was “even better than expected,” he said. “I just wanted to make the cut first because you never know what can happen here.”
Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by John O'Brien