Mickelson, Spieth final-round pairing proved to be entertaining

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

AUGUSTA - The pairing of Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth, with four green jackets between them, proved to be the most entertaining and productive pairing of the fourth round.

Mickelson shot 31 on the back nine and finished with a 65, matching his career low at Augusta and the lowest round by a competitor 50-plus years old. Mickelson had eight birdies and only one bogey to finish 8-under 280, tying his best finish since he tied for second in 2012.

Spieth had a more adventurous day. He produced nine birdies and three bogeys for his 6-under 66. He earned his sixth top-10 finish in nine starts. He tied for fourth.

“It was really cool,” Spieth said. “Obviously being with Phil, who’s won it a few times, you get some cool ovations, and I know I’ve had some really good ones myself.”

Mickelson said, “I had so much fun today. To come out today and play the way I did and hit the shots when I needed, it’s so much fun. I’m grateful to be a part of this tournament and to be here competing and then to play well, it means a lot.”

Both players began the final round 10 shots off the lead and played aggressively all day. Had they been playing a best-ball format, Mickelson and Spieth would have shot 14-under 58.

“When you’re that far back, you have to have everything go right,” Spieth said. “To be this close now, it’s nice, but it also almost frustrates me because I made some mistakes I don’t normally make out here and it was more decision errors than anything else.”

Henley is top dawg

Russell Henley is the top Dawg.

Henley was the University of Georgia’s top finisher in a Masters field that had eight Bulldogs, almost 10% of the total field. Henley tied for fourth at 7-under par, easily his best finish in seven starts at the Masters.

Henley started the final round at 5-under par. He found himself in fourth place after three holes with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 2 and 3 moved him to 7 under, four strokes behind Brooks Koepka. Henley took a bogey and No. 5 and made a bird at No. 9. From there, he parred the back nine.

Henley, 33, entered as the 38th ranked player in the world. He will move up now. The four-time PGA Tour winner tied for 30th at last year’s Masters. His previous best finish here was a tie for 11th in 2017.

Here’s a look at how the UGA golfers fared:

Russell Henley – 7-under (T4)

Chris Kirk – 1-under (T23)

Harris English – 6-over (T43)

Sepp Straka – 7-over (T46)

Keith Mitchell – 14-over (53)

Brian Harman - MC

Kevin Kisner - MC

Bubba Watson - MC

College tournament next for top amateur

For a week, Texas A&M senior Sam Bennett played a leading role on golf’s biggest stage. The sole amateur of the seven in the field to make the 36-hole cut, he was in the final pairing in the third round and finished in a tie for 16th, the highest finish at the Masters by an amateur since 2005.

He was playing perhaps the most famous golf course in the world, receiving thunderous applause on his walk up to the 18th green on Sunday. He was rubbing shoulder’s with the game’s greats and getting international TV time. High-powered Augusta National members wanted to shake his hand.

And, Monday, back to real life. No caddie, no courtesy car, no golf course tended by hordes of superintendents. After a week in fantasy land, Bennett was scheduled to tee it up Monday morning at Texas A&M’s Aggie Invitational, with 36 holes Monday at the school’s Traditions Club and another 18 on Tuesday. Asked if he was going to play in the event, Bennett first replied that he didn’t know, drawing laughter from the media.

“I think I am, because I don’t have many more college tournaments left,” Bennett said. “So I’d like to play in my home event.”

Bennett, who earned the Masters invite by winning the U.S. Amateur last summer, will have stories to tell.

“I haven’t had kids yet, so that walk up 18 was definitely the coolest experience of my life,” he said.

Mixed opinions on No. 13

The opinions on the longer version of the 13th hole, where 35 yards was added to the par-5, were mixed, with many players wanting to see how it plays under typical conditions. Most of the field only got one crack at the elongated hole because of the rain and cold that beset the hole on Friday afternoon and Saturday.

“It’s hard to really assess it fairly because of how cold and how wet it’s been,” 2018 champion Patrick Reed said. “I feel like it’s a little too early to tell. I definitely understand why they did it.”

Last year the hole ranked as the 16th easiest and played to a 4.852 average. There were six eagles, 91 birdies, 139 pars, 37 bogeys and six double bogeys. This year the hole ranked No. 14 and played to a 4.736 average; it surrendered eight eagles, 108 birdies, 122 pars, 30 bogeys and seven double bogeys.

“I think it kind of played the way they wanted it to,” three-time champion Phil Mickelson said. “We were hitting a lot longer shots in. Probably could extend the tee a little big for days like (Saturday) when it’s wet and into the wind and you would still have an option to maybe got for it, because I think just about everybody had to layup.”

Statistically speaking

Here’s a look at some of the key statistics for the week.

*Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth tied for the most birdies with 21.

*Russell Henley and Shane Lowry tied for most fairways hit with 50 of 56.

*Cameron Young led in driving distance at 319.9 yards.

*Scottie Scheffler led in greens in regulation with 55 of 72.

*Patrick Reed led in putts with 109 over 72 holes, a 1.51 average.

*Russell Henley, Matt Fitzpatrick and Talor Gooch led in sand saves, making 2 of 2.

*The par-4 No. 5 ranked as the toughest hole with a scoring average of 4.325. It yielded 13 birdies, 170 pars, 86 bogeys, seven double bogeys and one other.

*The par-5 No.2 ranked as the easiest hole with a scoring average of 4.635. It yielded eight eagles, 120 birdies, 120 pars, 23 bogeys and six double bogeys.

Stan Awtrey, Ken Sugiura and Chris Vivlamore contributed to this report.