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Mickelson's eagles help him soar

Phil Mickelson of the US plays the 15th

Phil Mickelson of the US plays the 15th hole during the 3rd round of the Masters. (April 10, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Phil Mickelson was watching the leader boards, as was just about everyone else at Augusta National.

Mickelson knew that things were happening furiously on this spectacular Saturday, knew Lee Westwood was making birdies, knew Tiger Woods was making birdies and bogeys.

Then Mickelson, who briefly had fallen five shots behind Westwood, started making things happen himself.

He knocked in an 8-footer for an eagle 3 on the par-5 13th. He knocked in a 7-iron from 141 yards for an eagle 2 on the par-4 14th. He almost knocked in a wedge for an eagle on the par-5 15th, the ball stopping inches from the cup for a birdie.

"I was expecting that last one to disappear, too,'' Mickelson said.

After an up-and-down start, Mickelson suddenly appeared as a solid Masters contender. The champion in 2004 and 2006 had a 5-under-par 67 and is at 11-under 205 after three rounds, a shot behind Westwood, whom he briefly passed before making bogey at 17.

Two others, Dustin Johnson last year and Dan Pohl in 1982, had consecutive eagles at Augusta on the same holes, 13 and 14. Neither ended up a winner. Then neither was ranked No. 3 in the world and had been No. 2, as the 39-year-old Mickelson.

"I played about as well as I have in a long time,'' Mickelson said.

Once again his wife, Amy, weakened from treatment for breast cancer, remained at the Augusta home the family is renting. Whether worries over her health have affected him he won't confide, but his golf has been ineffective at the start of this season.

"This is the way I expect to play,'' was Mickelson's comment before the Masters. "I feel great about my game. I'm hitting a lot of good iron shots, driving the ball well and feel very confident with the putter, even on some treacherous greens. And I've made a bunch of putts.''

Including one on the 510-yard 13th, where he said he took a chance on his second shot, flying it over Rae's Creek.

"I hit a good drive,'' Mickelson explained, "and I had a 7-iron to the back pin from 195. I took a chance to go at it, and hit one of the best shots of the tournament to about 8 feet, and it spurred the rest of the round.''

Not that he expected to follow with the wedge into the cup on the 14th, although he did expect to make birdie. "It's the easiest pin they can have on the hole.''

Eagle, eagle, birdie. Mickelson had gone from 7 under to 12 under in three holes.

"There were roars going all over the place,'' Mickelson affirmed. "You couldn't figure out what [was happening] because there were roars throughout the course. It was a really fun day to see the leader board changing.''

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