Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Masters

After three rounds at the Masters there is one thing that remains consistant---------the course is in charge.

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods getting into the final group at the Masters made it feel like a typical Saturday at Augusta National.
Nothing else did.

Not Woods finishing bogey-bogey, only to charge up the leaderboard while on the practice range. Not a scoreboard that showed no survivors to par for the first time in history. And certainly not a wind chill factor that never climbed higher than 47 degrees.
They might hand out a green parka, not a green jacket.

Stuart Appleby emerged as the leader despite a triple bogey on the 17th hole with a tee shot into the bunker guarding the seventh green, a wedge into a bunker on the hole he was playing and three putts. Compared with other train wrecks, that was tame.

He wound up with a 1-over 73 and in the final group with a familiar name, who got there in the strangest fashion. Those two bogeys gave Woods a 72, the first time in 11 trips to Augusta National as a pro that he has played three rounds without breaking par.

"There's a lot -- a lot -- of work left," Appleby said. "There's 18 holes, but to be honest, it's way more than that."

There was plenty on Saturday, the highest-scoring third round since 1956. The average score was 77.35, the highest day at Augusta National since it switched to Bentgrass greens in 1981. That's assuming it was grass -- and not glass -- on those greens.

Retief Goosen was the only player to break par, a 70 that moved him from last place into a tie for eighth. A dozen players failed to break 80. That included U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who was in the top 10 and making a charge until he twice hit wedge into the water on the 15th for a quadruple-bogey 9. He followed that with three straight bogeys for an 81.
The only suspense was watching Woods move closer to a fifth green jacket, a task made easier by late-afternoon collapses.

Appleby was at 2-over 218, the highest 54-hole lead ever at the Masters. He had a simple explanation for his triple bogey, and he might as well have been speaking for everyone.
There was no escape for anyone. Even Goosen's brilliant round ended with a bogey.
"We all are struggling in it together," Woods said. "You just have to get by".............(link to complete story)

Some where Bobby Jones is smiling.
With all the finest technology and equipment, and the best players in the world, Bobby's course is humbling to say the least.

Augusta National has never been this tough to play in the history of the Masters.

When the tourney officials toughened up the course in 2002, they probably never factored in swirling winds up to 25 miles per hour or "U.S. Open" type greens.

But one "factor" does remain true to form-------(even in these conditions), the cream does rise to the top. Each day that Tiger Woods complained about his miscues down the stretch, Woods' 73, 74, 72 for a three over par total has left him one shot out of the lead going into the final round.

On a day when only one player, Retief Goosen, played an under par round (70), all the rest of the field of contenders could do was try to find a way to stop the bleeding. The two leaders starting the day (Brett Wetterich and Tim Clark) ended up with scores of 80 and 83 respectfully. If some one had told Tim Clark that he would shoot and 80 and still remain four shots out of the lead, they might have received a funny look.

But this is the "nature" of the game here at Augusta this year. If Woods shoots par or one over in the final round today, it would be a safe bet he puts on his fifth green jacket. If some one lurking back two to four shots shoots a 68 or 69, (and Woods blows up to 74 or 75), we may very well see a newcomer in the jacket.

But not many would bet on it. Not even Bobby Jones.

(update: ok, so my numbers were off just a bit on Woods (par), but some one did shoot 69 and he's wearing a new jacket.)

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