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Phil Mickelson fit, relaxed and playing smart at the Masters, Butch Harmon says

Phil Mickelson and swing instructor Butch Harmon hit the practice area Saturday at 11:15 a.m. local time, three hours before Mickelson’s name would be announced on the first tee.

“I used to think he was lazy, in all honesty,” Harmon said. “He never really took care of himself and I never really saw him work hard at a tournament. [Now] he works his tail off. And you can see from looking at him, he has himself in really good shape.”

Harmon, who began coaching Mickelson in 2007 following an 11-year stint with Tiger Woods, was relieved to see him lay up on the par-five 15th hole after a drive into the trees.

“He took his medicine,” Harmon said. “In the past he might have tried some miraculous shot. Everything he did today was smart.”

Mickelson made birdie after nearly draining his pitch from 87 yards.

Harmon said a key for Mickelson is that his family is with him — wife Amy, who is battling breast cancer, and their three children.

“Amy has always been Phil’s biggest supporter,” Harmon said. “At night, they talk about every shot he hit. And he hasn’t had that when he’s been out on the road. I think that has been the big relaxing thing this week. When he comes to the course, he’s ready to work, not uptight.”

Young, not restless

Matteo Manassero was less interested in being a trailblazer — the youngest ever to play in a third round at the Masters — than he was in trying to watch Saturday’s futbol match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

“What channel is it on?” he asked innocently after carding a third-round 73 with bogeys on Nos. 12, 16 and 17.

Manassero loves soccer, but he began playing golf at age 3 and figured he might as well stick with it. Good call. At the post-pubescent age of 16, Manassero made the Masters cut.

If that accomplishment underwhelmed him, it’s with good reason: Last year he tied for 12th at the British Open.

Manassero, from Verona, Italy, plans to turn pro in May at the Italian Open. Then he’ll hit the European Tour. Manassero, who hit 13 of 14 fairways on Saturday, said he is certain that he’s ready.

“This is what I want to do with my life,” he said.

tgreenstein@tribune.com


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