Mickelson's Masters ends with one bad decision

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Golf fans have endured plenty of Phil Mickelson moments. You have the good, like the 2004 Masters' 72nd hole that still produces goosebumps on command. And you have the bad, like the 2006 U.S. Open when Phil hit a drive so far left that his look told the world he'd lost the tournament.

But you don't normally get both on the same weekend. For all Mickelson did on Saturday, charging up the leaderboard with an incredible back-nine 30 that left every fan forgetting there was even a field left to challenge on Sunday, or that plenty of golf was left.

2012 Masters
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And it didn't take long for us to have that bad Phil moment. Standing on the fourth tee, already enduring powerful Augusta sound waves that came with Louis Oosthuizen's double-eagle a group in front of Phil, things had settled down and the tournament was back on. 

Mickelson sat just two shots back despite the double-eagle, and still in prime position to make a run at his fourth green jacket. But his 4-iron never was left, the "safe" place according to Phil after his round. The problem is, golf is full of weird bounces and strange results. When that golf ball is in the air, talent leaves and you are at the hands of fate. Some hit a hill and bounce toward the hole, some hit a grandstand and bounce into bamboo most patrons never even knew existed. 

Phil's ball sat in a spot that could have really ruined his chances at the 2012 Masters. That was bad enough. His decisions turned out to be the final dagger. 

But exactly what happened there that caused Phil to go at it right-handed, twice? 

"It hit the metal railing and shot in the trees. And not only was it unplayable, but I couldn't take an unplayable [lie]. There was no place to go other than back to the tee. So I took the risk of trying to hit it a few times," Mickelson said. 

The shot put him four shots back. And while there was plenty of time to make up ground, not many bounce back from a second triple-bogey at Augusta National. 

"I'm certainly not satisfied just being in contention," Phil said Sunday. "I think that I love having the opportunity to win, to compete on Sunday, to come down the back nine with a chance to win the Masters. That's what's fun."

And Phil definitely had his chances. A birdie on the par-5 eighth left Phil only three shots back of the lead, and he had to wait until the next par-5 for another chance to gain on the leaders. 

But the putter that had been hot all week at Augusta left him, and it seemed any putt he needed to make never had enough nerve. He left must-make putts short on Nos. 13, 15, and 17, with the latter being the toughest because the guys in front were both on the green two shots clear of Phil. 

It turned out not to be Phil's time. He closed with a final-round 72 while everyone else seemed to be running up the scoreboard. Saturday was reserved for his brilliance, and as they say, it's tough to recreate two incredible rounds in a row. 

But the 2012 Masters will be remembered for a few shots. That hooking wedge on the second playoff hole by Bubba Watson that set up a first green jacket. The double-eagle by  Oosthuizen that seemed destined to go in the hole. And then Phil's shot on No. 4 that left him outside looking in. 

Sometimes it's the decision that kills you, and others it's simply a railing.

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