It was a wild and crazy day at Augusta National yesterday.
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.
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 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 â€” and not glass â€” 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.
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.
Woods has never lost a major when playing in the final group, although he has always had at least a share of the lead. History is on his side, too. The winner at the Masters has come out of the final group every year since Nick Faldo won in 1990.
Augusta National 2007 is not the usual way this course plays. That makes it difficult to predict what will happen today. Post a low score early and wait for everyone to fall apart on the back nine could end up a winning strategy.
Then you can’t really bet against Woods. He’s won the Masters four times in ten years. Much has been made of Woods never coming from behind to win a major. Then Tiger has never been one shot out of the lead with 18 holes to go in a major.
I’m not going to jinx my longshot pick to win this week by hyping his chances. A week ago I felt certain someone who I also picked to win, was going to win the Kraft Nabisco. This weekend I know nothing.(Apologies to Sgt. Schultz)
Interesting bit of Masters trivia, that could apply today. The tournament has had a history of players witnessing famous final rounds, and a few years later that witness winning the Masters themselves. Here’s a rundown.
1960- Arnold Palmer birdies the last two holes to win his 2nd Masters title.
Palmer’s playing partner- Billy Casper the 1970 Masters champ.
1966- Nicklaus wins a 3-way 18 hole playoff becoming the first golfer to win back to back Masters.
One of the two other golfers in the playoff- Gay Brewer the 1967 Masters Champ.
1968- Roberto DeVicenzo loses the Masters by one shot after signing an incorrect score card on Sunday.
DeVicenzo’s Sunday playing partner? Tommy Aaron the 1973 Masters Champ.
1975- Jack Nicklaus wins his fifth Masters in an exciting duel with Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller. The 75 Masters is sometimes called the greatest Masters ever played.
Nicklaus’ playing partner? Tom Watson, the 1977 and 1981 Masters Champ.
1978- Gary Player shoots a final round 64 to win his 3rd Masters.
Player’s playing partner- Severiano Ballesteros, the 1980 and 1983 Masters Champ.
1979- ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ Ed Sneed loses the Masters after taking a six shot lead into Sunday and a three shot lead with three holes to go. Sneed’s collapse that led to Fuzzy Zoeller winning is one of the most infamous Sunday finishes at Augusta.
Sneed’s playing partner- Craig Stadler, the 1982 Masters Champ
1984- Ben Crenshaw, one of the most popular players on tour, wins the 1st of his two Masters titles.
Crenshaw’s playing partner- Nick Faldo the 1989, 90 and 96 Masters Champ.
1986- Jack Nicklaus comes from behind to win his 6th Masters title.
Nicklaus playing partner- Sandy Lyle the 1988 Masters champ.
If we use this system, Retief Goosen(who played with Tiger on Sunday in 2002 when Woods became only the third person to win back to back Masters) would be the winner.
The tee times haved been moved up in order to complete play today. CBS has been tempting the Golf Gods for some years, having the Masters end around 7 p.m. leaving little time for a playoff. The network has been lucky so far, no playoff at the tournament has gone more than two holes since 1979.
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