x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Masters leader Hanson sees himself as underdog to Mickelson

The Swede will not be daunted by being paired with Phil Mickelson in the final round at Augusta today.

eter Hanson celebrates sinking a birdie putt on the 17th green during the third round.
eter Hanson celebrates sinking a birdie putt on the 17th green during the third round.

AUGUSTA // Sweden's Peter Hanson is relaxed about leading the Masters because with only a one-stroke edge over three-time champion Phil Mickelson, it does not feel like he has any advantage.

And after playing alongside Mickelson for the first two rounds this week, Hanson knows the 41-year-old American left-hander is beloved by the Augusta National spectators who will watch them together again in Sunday's final round.

"I know a one-shot lead over Mickelson is pretty much nothing," Hanson said. "He would be the big-time favorite to win. I see myself as a little underdog."

Hanson opened with a bogey then fired eight birdies for a seven-under 65 in Saturday's third round to stand on nine-under par 207 after 54 holes, one shot atop Mickelson, whose 66 included four birdies and an eagle on the back nine.

The 34-year-old Swede birdied five of the last seven holes and birdied both front nine par-5s, the second and eighth holes, plus the par-4 seventh.

"This course is very challenging," Hanson said. "To shoot 65 around here, to shoot 31 on the back nine, is something you dream about.

"The last four or five holes, when everything seemed to be going right, the ball seemed to find the hole some way. People call it the zone or that peak performance, and I think I was pretty close to that."

Mickelson refused to accept the favorite's role conferred upon him without heaping praise upon Hanson.

"He was hitting shots right on the pin and he was making a lot of putts and I had to make something happen just to hang close to him," Mickelson said.

"I felt like I had to birdie to keep pace. He played phenomenally. It's very difficult to follow those kind of birdies and I felt fortunate to be able to get a couple and to stay within one."

The final Sunday pairing at Augusta National has produced 19 of the past 21 Masters champions, although last year's winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa was an exception.

Augusta crowds have cheered Mickelson to green jackets in 2004, 2006 and 2010 and Hanson tried to use the support for his playing partner to bolster his own emotions.

"Walking these fairways with Phil will be amazing," Hanson said. "The crowds are so much behind Phil. They love him and I understand why.

"I played with Phil the first couple of days and I was trying to use that as a bit of motivation for me as well. I tried to stay pretty close to him the first couple of days and feed off it a little bit.

"I'm just going to try to enjoy it. We've played a lot of golf together and with all the support behind him, hopefully it can feed off a little bit toward me as well."

Mickelson and Hanson also played against each other in singles at the 2010 Ryder Cup, where Mickelson took a 4-and-2 triumph.

"He started off with four straight birdies and just killed me," Hanson said. "I had no chance."

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