For defending champ, this time is a struggle

Mickelson's luck changed

Els, Singh disappointing


The Masters

April 10, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. - In winning his first major championship at last year's Masters, nearly everything seemed to go Phil Mickelson's way right up to the final birdie putt on the last hole in Sunday's final round.

And then there was yesterday, when everything seemed to go the wrong way for the tournament's defending champion.

First there were the two bogeys in his final three holes in finishing the weather-delayed second round in the morning, which saw Mickelson drop from 4-under par to 2-under, eight strokes behind leader Chris DiMarco.

Then, on the practice tee in the afternoon between rounds, Mickelson popped a blister on the middle finger of his left hand. It proved to be both painful and prophetic on how the rest of the day would go.

By the time he was finished last night after play was suspended by darkness, Mickelson was at 3-under through 47 holesbut had lost ground on DiMarco, who was leading at 13-under.

Mickelson, whose victory in last week's BellSouth Classic was his third this season, said he hasn't played nearly as well here this week as he did last year.

"I made a few too many mistakes," he said. "I made more bogeys this week than all last year. ... I have 25 holes left, and it doesn't look so good."

Mickelson, 34, is not the only player who was considered a legitimate contender, and possibly one of the favorites, to not live up to the billing. Neither Vijay Singh nor Ernie Els has done as well as expected.

After a strong start with a 4-under 68, Singh completed his second round yesterday with a 1-over 73. He played the first eight holes in the third round in 2-under to get to 5-under but bogeyed the ninth hole.

"You have to go out and play a little bit more aggressively," Singh had said between rounds yesterday.

Asked to tell his side in the reported blowup with Mickelson over spike marks Thursday, Singh said: "There's no side. You know it all. Let's talk about my golf game."

And then there was Els, who many believed had a chance to win his first green jacket this year. The 35-year-old South African started slow with an opening-round 75 and barely made the cut with a second-round 73.

Hot round

Little-known Trevor Immelman started yesterday's third round at 2-over and well back in the pack. By the time play was called last night, the 25-year-old South African had climbed onto the leader board and was 3-under overall through 51 holes.

"It's a funny game," Immelman said. "The weather this afternoon, it was majestic."

Like winning the lottery

David Kushner didn't know that his decision to buy a house in Fenwick Island and join a golf club in the development would lead to his first trip to the Masters.

But that's what happened to Kushner, an insurance executive who lives in Gaithersburg.

As part of the deal for joining the club, Kushner received a couple of raffle tickets, with the winner receiving an all-expense paid trip for two to Augusta. Kushner took his accountant, Hal Danoff of North Potomac.

"I told him to buy the house," Danoff said yesterday.

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