Masters wide open after day three
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 US Masters | Round Three | 13 Apr 2008
For the second consecutive day at the 2008 Masters Tournament, two players who have previously claimed US Public Links and USPGA Rookie of the Year titles will face off in the final group at Augusta National.
Immelman was the US Public Links Champion in 1998 and, as a result played in his first Masters in 1999 while for Snedeker his first visit to the Masters came in 2004 after winning the 2003 US Public Links Championship. For Snedeker this is his first time back at Augusta since making the cut as an amateur while for Immelman he is playing the event for the sixth occasion after he too made the cut as an amateur when he debuted on the hallowed turf of Augusta National.
Immelman was Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour in 2006 in a season that included his only victory to date on the PGA Tour – the 2006 Western Open. Snedeker was Rookie of the Year in 2007, a season highlighted by his victory at the Wyndham Championship.
28-year-old leader, Trevor Immelman and 27-year-old Brandt Snedeker both made brilliant final hole birdies today to ensure they would not only be playing together on tournament Sunday but they would now face the significant prospect of making a potential second PGA Tour title, a major championship.
Immelman is at 11 under after a gutsy third round of 69 and leads by two over Snedeker who recovered from three consecutive bogies in the middle of his round, a stretch which threatened his dream run. Snedeker posted three birdies in last six holes to stay in touch with the long time leader and the pair will again tee it up in the final pairing tomorrow.
Snedeker joined the overnight leader Immelman early when he birdied the par five second and when Immelman bogeyed the 4th, Snedeker had the lead outright. They would be joined in battle for 54 hole supremacy by Paul Casey and Steve Flesch who all either led or had a share of the lead throughout a day, interrupted at one stage for 45 minutes by rain.
Left hander, Steve Flesch is in third place at 8 under and three behind Immelman while Paul Casey put together six birdies in his round of 69 to be at 7 under and well within striking distance.
In 5th place and six behind is Tiger Woods who moved into a challenging position courtesy of another outrageous finish, just as he had in round two. A brilliant drive at the 17th was followed by a pitch to two feet and Woods had moved to five under. At the 18th he again found the trees right from the tee as he had yesterday but this time there was a direct line to the green, even if it meant hitting it over the trees in front. Given what he faced, he hit a great approach to the front of the green and then made what might yet turn out to be a crucial 7 foot par save to be at five under and at that stage was within three.
Given what appears to be an incredibly demanding day on day four, Woods might not have to make a lot of forward progress to challenge for the lead but he will need to move forward at least if he is to catch and beat all four players ahead of him.
At four under and perhaps not yet out of it is Stewart Cink who is quietly going about his business and if he is able to put together good strong round tomorrow, his first major championship is not totally out of the question.
After a horror run in the middle of his round, Phil Mickelson fought his way back into the tournament and faced a six foot putt at the 15th to move to five under. He missed and then short sided himself at the 16th and took double bogey. It was a costly fifteen minutes as at 5 under he would have given himself a chance albeit an outside one tomorrow. He is at two under and too far back it would seem.
When the rain cleared today, the course was softened marginally and the wind was not the factor that it appeared earlier it might become. Tomorrow however may well be a different story with strong blustery winds moving in from the west and expected to turn Augusta National into an even more demanding golf course.
The two players at the top of the leaderboard, to a large extent control not only the destiny of this event but their own destiny too. With what promises to be a day where par will have some real value tomorrow, they can close out any potential threats from behind if they are able to record rounds of even par or better. If they were to stumble however, as Sunday at Augusta has seen on many occasions, then the door remains open for players as far back as Cink who is currently seven behind.
Adam Scott recorded his equal best round at Augusta when a round of 70 moved him from 29th to 19th. At even par he is the best of the Australians by two after Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby both finished with 72 to be at their overnight score of two over while for Geoff Ogilvy his disappointing week continued with a round of 76 to be at six over.
Can another South African join the likes of Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Gary Player and Bobby Locke amongst the elite of the game, will Brandt Snedeker continue his meteoric rise by winning a major in his sophomore season on the PGA Tour, will they open the door for Casey and Flesch looking also to win their first major or will they all be overpowered by the world number one?
As is so often the case, there is no shortage of questions to be answered on Masters Sunday.