Mick­el­son trades ban­ter with part­ner Kuchar.

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

Phil Mick­el­son brought his best stuff to the Masters, at least the drive down Mag­no­lia Lane.

Mick­el­son was paired Satur­day with Matt Kuchar, a good friend and one of the few play­ers for whom Mick­el­son never has an an­swer dur­ing their ban­ter. Mick­el­son posted to Twit­ter his drive into Au­gusta Na­tional. He mixed his ex­cite­ment with this barb at Kuchar.

“Ob­vi­ously we’re not go­ing to have any side ac­tion to­day be­cause I’d prob­a­bly see like .06% if I did win,” Mick­el­son said.

That was a slight ex­ag­ger­a­tion. Kuchar ini­tially paid his lo­cal cad­die in Mex­ico just un­der .4% – $5,000 from his $1,296,000 earn­ings. Kuchar later paid him $50,000.

Kuchar usu­ally gets the bet­ter side of Mick­el­son.

One of those oc­ca­sions was at Au­gusta Na­tional, when Mick­el­son wore Masters green al­li­ga­tor-skin shoes with a match­ing belt. Kuchar, never known to be at that sar­to­rial level, ques­tioned him about his wardrobe.

“You’ve got to win three green jack­ets to wear these,” Mick­el­son told him.

“Well,” Kuchar said, “let’s just hope I only win two.”

Ital­ian con­nec­tion: Tiger Woods won the first of his four Masters in 1997 play­ing in the fi­nal group with Costantino Rocca. Francesco Moli­nari was watch­ing from home in Italy. He just doesn’t re­mem­ber how long he stayed with it. Woods had a nine-shot lead and wound up win­ning by 12.

“I was in front of a TV, for sure,” Moli­nari said af­ter build­ing a two-shot lead Satur­day. “I can’t re­mem­ber, to be hon­est, if I stayed up un­til the end, be­cause we all knew how it was go­ing to end. I was very proud to see Costantino play­ing in the last group with him.”

Rocca beat Woods in sin­gles that year in the Ry­der Cup.

Prize money: For the first time, the Masters cham­pion will get just more than $2 mil­lion in ad­di­tion to a green jacket.

The prize fund was in­creased by $500,000 to $11.5 mil­lion. The win­ner will re­ceive $2,070,000, with the run­ner-up get­ting $1,242,000. That’s still short of the $12 mil­lion prize money at the U.S. Open last year.

From an in­fla­tion stand­point, Jack Nick­laus made $902,359 from his 45 ap­pear­ances, in­clud­ing six green jack­ets.

Grand slammed: The ca­reer Grand Slam was a long shot for Rory McIl­roy go­ing into the week­end at the Masters. Now it would re­quire a record.

On Satur­day, McIl­roy shot a 71, leav­ing him 12 shots be­hind. No one has come from more than eight shots be­hind in the fi­nal round to win a green jacket.

This was his fifth try at win­ning the Masters when the ca­reer Grand Slam was in play. The past three play­ers to com­plete the Grand Slam all did it within three years of get­ting the third leg.

Pep­perell de­but: In his Masters de­but, Ed­die Pep­perell had a Satur­day morn­ing tee time with Jeff Knox.

Knox, an Au­gusta Na­tional mem­ber, is re­garded as the club’s best player, who of­ten goes out as a marker when an odd num­ber of play­ers make the cut. Pep­perell was at the bot­tom of the 65 play­ers. He soon re­al­ized he wasn’t play­ing with some week­end hacker.

“I saw him swing­ing it and I thought, ‘I’m in trou­ble.’ ... He’s a good player and his short game was bril­liant. And he was nice. Dare I say it: He’s the friendli­est pro­fes­sional that I ever played with.”

He said Knox shot a 74. Pep­perell shot 72.

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