Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson served up one of the great head-to-head duels in major history at Augusta National last night — but both came off the course bitterly disappointed.
Although Mickelson was the one to win it by one, a closing bogey appeared to have ended his hopes of a third Masters title.
The 2004 and 2006 champion, out in a record-equalling 30, was left to rue a succession of bad mistakes on the back nine as he shot 67 for a nine-under-par aggregate.
Woods, seeking his 15th major and fifth green jacket, closed with two bogeys for a 68 that put him on eight under.
The pair had started an hour ahead and seven strokes behind overnight leaders Kenny Perry and Angel Cabrera and with four holes to play Perry was 12 under.
Cabrera was two behind, but was down to third place as Perry’s Ryder Cup teammate Chad Campbell stood 11 under after 14 holes.
"I’m not going to leave, but these guys are pretty good," said Mickelson. "It was a fun front nine, but I made a terrible swing on 12. That was costly and missing the eagle putt on 15 certainly hurt."
Woods pinpointed his drive down the 17th as the moment it was over for him.
"I was pretty much dead from there," he commented.
Mickelson launched his bid for glory — and possibly the world number one spot as well — by grabbing six birdies in seven holes starting at the second.
Woods, though, birdied the second and eagled the long eighth from 25 feet to stay in touch with an outward 33. However, Mickelson dumped his tee shot into the water on the short 12th and double-bogeyed.
When he two-putted the long 13th he reignited his chances and at the 15th he drilled a majestic iron to four feet. If the eagle putt had gone in he would have joined Perry, but he missed.
Woods had also birdied the 13th and after missing a 20-foot eagle putt two holes later hit his tee shot to the 170-yard 16th to four feet and drew level with Mickelson.
They were both one behind, but Woods’ hopes were effectively over when he blocked himself out off the 17th tee, could not find the green and bogeyed.
Mickelson, meanwhile, hit his approach to six feet, but missed that as well and then, while Woods was in more tree trouble on the last, found the cavernous fairway bunker and, unlike Sandy Lyle so famously in 1988, came up short of the green.
There was not a single European on the leaderboard at that point. Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were joint 10th with Woods and Mickelson when they resumed, but the former turned in 36 and Westwood, having double-bogeyed the seventh, 37.
There was more bad news for Padraig Harrington followers as well. After his nine at the second yesterday Harrington lost a ball up a tree on the ninth and ran up a triple bogey seven. The Open and US PGA champion was out in 39 and when he bogeyed the next hole he stood three over. But then came an eagle at the 13th.
Rory McIlroy also turned in 39, but the 19-year-old birdied six of his last 10 holes for a 70 and two-under aggregate on his debut, the same as last week’s Houston Open winner Paul Casey.
Graeme McDowell was the leading European a 69 putting him four under and joint 17th — one spot outside of guaranteeing himself a return next April.