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Masters: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson know they’re running out of time to enhance Major haul

 

By Brian Keogh

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson don’t like playing second fiddle to anyone but even with seven green jackets they were almost happy just to be able to play the ultimate warm-up act to last night’s star turn at Augusta.

Woods might never win another Major but his glory will never fade for Masters patrons, who forgave his mistakes and cheered his moments of brilliance as if another title was on the line.

The 14-time Major winner was the butt of some Twitter banter before he headed out for last night’s final round, sandwiched between names like Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples and Vijay Singh — three former champions with a combined age of 173.

At 42 and 10 years removed from his most recent Major victory, a reminder that Woods will find it tough on tour — “the Champions Tour” — was a funny line but also a painful one given that it contained more than a grain of truth.

Given his performances on tour this year and some of his shots last night, many still hold out hope of one last hurrah.

The truth is that while he managed to beat all three old-timers in his first Masters appearance since 2015, shooting 69 to finish on one-over par, time is clearly running out.

The missed five-footer for birdie at the first, the fluffed pitch from the first cut at the third and the three-putt that followed the otherworldly cut around the trees at the seventh were reminders that the once superhuman, red-shirted wonder is no longer the same player.

Still, there were also reminders of his brilliance. After two-putting the 13th for birdie, he eagled the 15th from 30ft. A big finish beckoned but instead, he closed out with a three-putt bogey for a 69, two shots worse than Mickelson (47).

“I putted awfully and still shot 69,” Woods said. “I just made too many mistakes out there.

“For a couple of years I’ve just been coming here just to eat,” he said of the Champions Dinner. “And now to be able to play in the Masters, this is one of the greatest walks in golf and I had missed it.”

Making up the numbers is uncharted territory and Mickelson’s post-round comments were tinged with sadness.

“It’s never easy knowing what you’re missing out on with that back nine here Sunday at The Masters and not having a chance,” the left-hander said.

He knows opportunities to add to his Major haul will be few and far between and he must wait until Shinnecock Hills in June to see if he can get the final leg of the career Grand Slam.

“I put too much pressure on myself in the Majors because I know I don’t have a ton of time to win them,” Mickelson said. “But these next two US Opens, Shinnecock and Pebble Beach give me good opportunities.”

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