The final round of the 76th Masters began on Sunday at Augusta National under perfect conditions with the promise of a back-nine shootout for the champion's green jacket at the end of the day.
Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson fired his best round at Augusta National since 1996 on Saturday, a six-under 66, to move within a stroke of the lead and join pace-setter Peter Hanson of Sweden in the final pairing.
Of the past 21 Masters champions, 19 of them played in Sunday's final twosome.
Hanson, seeking his first major title after missing the cut in his only prior Masters appearance, fired a 65 on Saturday to stand on nine-under 207 with 41-year-old US left-hander Mickelson one shot back.
Mickelson has birdied the par-5 15th and par-4 18th in all three prior rounds and has two birdies and an eagle at the par-5 13th, the last hole of the famed Amen Corner layout along Rae's Creek that has doomed many title hopes.
Mickelson, who won his first major title at the 2004 Masters and added titles at Augusta in 2006 and 2010, praised his putting stroke for being the key factor in solving the undulating greens that make the course so formidable.
"It has been so good. It has been the best I have had in my career," said Mickelson. "This week, where I know the greens so well and the breaks, it has been really good."
South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, was poised in third on 209.
Strong showings by "Oosty" over the closing holes the first two days brought back memories of his pal Charl Schwartzel's record Masters finish last year when he became the first major winner to birdie the last four holes to win.
Schwartzel's triumph came after one of the most exciting back-nine showdowns in majors history with eight players having a taste of the lead over the last tension-packed holes.
With Augusta National often offering up pin positions over the last holes that offer a chance at birdies and eagles for those willing to take risks at the proper moment, the recipe for more magic lingered amid the Georgia pines.
American Bubba Watson was fourth on 210, one stroke in front of Matt Kuchar and two ahead of a foursome that included three-time major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland, England's World No. 3 Lee Westwood, Sweden's Henrik Stenson and American Hunter Mahan.
Scotsman Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion, was alone in 10th on 213.
Former World No. 1 Tiger Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the career record of 18 won by Jack Nicklaus, stood on three-over 219 after 54 holes and was trying to avoid his worst Masters showing as a professional.
Woods, sharing 38th when the day began, shared 22nd in 2004 for his worst pro effort. As an amateur, Woods missed the cut in 1996 and shared 41st in 1995 before winning his first major title at the 1997 Masters by a record 12 shots.
The best final-round comeback by a winner in Masters history was eight strokes by Jack Burke in 1956.© ANP/AFP