Everyone in Field On Wrong Side Of Par at Augusta
AUGUSTA, Ga., April 7 — The wind was up, temperatures dipped into the 40s and scores continued to soar above par during the calamitous third round of the 71st Masters. Welcome to golf’s newest reality show: “Survivor: Augusta National.”
Even Tiger Woods, the most resourceful player in the modern game, eventually succumbed. After crafting 16 holes of mostly brilliant play, the No. 1 player in the world bogeyed his final two holes for the second time this week in what he later described as “one of the hardest rounds I think I’ve ever played here.”
But in the end, it didn’t matter. All Woods had to do was wait about 90 minutes after his third round had ended, and almost everyone ahead of him had backed up to about where he wanted them. He will enter Sunday’s final round only a shot off the 54-hole lead held by Australian Stuart Appleby, who made triple bogey at the 17th hole yet still shot 73 for a 2over total of 218.
Appleby will be attempting to become the
first Australian to win a Masters, and he also will have the dubious distinction of posting the highest score ever by a third-round leader, surpassing the even-par 216 by Jack Nicklaus and Tommy Jacobs in 1966. He will play in the final group with Woods, tied for second at 3-over 219. His third even par or worse round of this wicked week marked only the second time in his 10-year career that Woods has gone three straight rounds without a score under par.
“It was a tough day with the wind gusts,” Woods said. “You hit quality shots and just get absolutely hosed. You get committed to hit the proper shot and get lucky at the same time with the wind.”
Woods was joined at 3 over by Englishman Justin Rose, who bogeyed two of his final three holes and posted a 75 — 219. Augusta native Vaughn Taylor, leading the tournament when he birdied the 15th hole, then bogeyed his last three for 77 — 220 and was in a three-way tie for fourth with Padraig Harrington (75) and Zach Johnson (76).
To win his fifth Masters championship and 13th major title, Woods will need to overcome a threeround deficit at Augusta for the first time. Woods always has insisted that the tougher the conditions, the better he likes it. And for most of his first 16 holes, he hardly seemed fazed by the swirling 25mph gusts, finger-numbing chill and treacherous greens.
But a drive in the trees at the 17th led to a missed 20-foot par putt, and he missed the green with an approach at the 18th that led to another tough chip and a missed 18-foot par putt. Woods again was furious with himself for giving away those two precious shots, but Appleby was remarkably composed despite that triple bogey, which included a missed three-foot putt.
He also played some magnificent golf that included three consecutive birdies early in his round to launch him to a two-shot lead he managed to keep through 16 holes. Then he yanked his tee shot at the 17th hole into a bunker on the adjoining No. 7 and eventually walked off the green with a 7.
Appleby had a chance to atone somewhat on the 18th hole when he left himself an eight-foot birdie putt, but at the last possible moment, it veered slightly off line and stopped about two inches from the cup for a round of 73.
“ I just hit a straight pull left,” Appleby said of his tee shot at 17. “It was a comedy of errors after that. Look, stuff like that happens. . . . Today, it was a real fight out there. There are bogeys behind every corner all day. The course is ready to slap you in the head if you do anything wrong.”
How difficult were the conditions?
“It was like trying to land a golf ball on your driveway,” Rich Beem said after his third-round 75 — 227. “But your driveway has mounds on them and they stick the pin near the mounds. The wind was blowing from all different directions. Sometimes you just have to giggle about it.”
It did not take all that long to separate contenders from pretenders.
The 36-hole co-leaders, Brett Wetterich and Tim Clark, played together, and if misery truly loves company, they were the perfect pairing.
Clark, the runner-up here in 2006, was the first to sag his shoulders when he made four bogeys on his first five holes, missing a 12footer for par at the 455-yard No. 1 and an eight-footer at the 575-yard No. 2. By day’s end, the South African had plummeted to a round of 80, though he still was in a tie for eighth place at 6-over 222 and only four shots out of the lead.
Wetterich made a bogey from the left trees at the second hole and a triple bogey at the seemingly benign 350-yard No. 3. His second shot at the third was over the back of the green, and his third shot whooshed past the pin and carried back down the slope in front of the green. His fourth went over the back again, and a chip and two putts later he had gone from 1 under to 2 over and never recovered, soaring to an 83 and 9-over 225.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson managed to get to 4 over for the tournament with a birdie at the second hole. He played the front nine in even par, and when he made the day’s first birdie at the 440-yard 14th with a 10-foot putt, he was at 5 over. But a three-putt par at the 530-yard 15th and a bogey from the bunker at the 170-yard 16th ended any real hope for a back-nine charge.
Mickelson almost holed out for eagle at the 18th but missed a 15foot birdie putt and had to settle for a 73, leaving him at 6 over.
“Tough as I’ve seen,” Mickelson said. “Obviously I needed to shoot under par to put myself in contention. I fought hard to where at least I have a chance. I feel like I have to shoot in the 60s to have a chance — 14 pars and four birdies. That’s kind of the game plan. . . . There’s a good chance somebody who goes off early and posts a good number can possibly take the title this year.”
Still, the winner of the Masters has come out of the final group on Sunday for 16 straight years going back to Ian Woosnam’s victory in 1991.
Asked about playing with Woods over the last 18 holes, Appleby said: “He won’t even know I’m there. . . . You’re not going to have a shoot-fest out there. It’s going to be a battle of attrition.”
Brett Wetterich navigates his way through the trees at the seventh hole. Wetterich entered the day leading at 2 under par but finished it at 9 over.