AUGUSTA, Ga. - After a lot of rain and a couple marathon days, the 67th Masters is finally back on schedule, with everything as it should be.
The final round will be played today and it will include Tiger Woods having a chance to win a record third consecutive green jacket, an unlikely circumstance on a day when he was a three-foot putt from missing the cut.
Jeff Maggert is the 54-hole leader after a second grueling day at the Augusta National Golf Club, thanks to a charge through the Georgia pines in which he birdied five of the final six holes to finish at 5-under 211. And he will carry a two-shot lead into today's decisive round over a weary Mike Weir, who frittered away a six-shot lead with 11 holes remaining.
All that, though, was largely overshadowed by the daunting performance of Woods, who wasn't even sure he would be around for the final 36 holes of the Masters, let alone finish just four shots from the lead.
“Par to 2-under par, if I get there, I get right back in the tournament,” Woods said. “I was lucky enough to be able to go out there and shoot that number and get in that position.”
Woods began the third round 11 shots behind Weir, a Canadian left-hander who was at 6 under after the second round was completed yesterday morning. When it ended, Woods, the world's No. 1 player, was four shots behind Maggert after a bogey-free 6-under 66 and still looking like a good bet to become the first player to win three Masters in a row.
Woods was able to do so because he saved par from the greenside bunker at the final hole of his second round, making a three-foot putt that kept him from missing the 36-hole cut for the first time in 102 events.
“You just look at the fact you're still in the ballgame,” Woods said. “At the time, I was only seven shots out of second place. It's not that much out here on this golf course. We saw the pin locations for the third round. We knew they would be tough. You knew if you posted a good number, you'd get right back in it.”
Maggert birdied the final three holes and five of the last six to tie Woods for the day's best round. And the surge came after he double-bogeyed No. 11, the 490-yard, par 4 that is the entrance to Amen Corner.
“After the double on 11, I wanted to finish strong,” Maggert said. “I was thinking more about trying to have a good finish, make a few birdies and try to take away the bad taste of that double-bogey.”
Instead, he finds himself in the lead of the year's first major championship. And at a place where he had missed the cut three of the previous five years.
Maggert is not known as a good finisher. He has held the 54-hole lead eight times in his career on the PGA Tour but won only one of those - the 1993 Walt Disney Classic. But, seven of the past 10 Masters winners, including the past four, have either held or shared the 54-hole lead.
“I haven't been playing very well, but it's been fun this week,” Maggert said. “I'm 5 under par and have a chance to win the Masters.”
Right behind are Vijay Singh, the last person before Woods to win the green jacket, and former PGA champion David Toms. They are tied at 2 under, three shots back.
Singh had gone 33 holes without a bogey and made just one in 39 holes. But he bogeyed the final hole for a 70 for his third round.
For Toms, who lost to Woods in the final of the Match Play Championship, it was a welcome position: He had missed the cut in two of his previous three PGA Tour events.
But, after closing birdies at Nos. 15 and 17, Toms is hoping to win his second major championship. He won the 2001 PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
“I still don't think you have to hit the ball 300 yards to shoot low scores here,” said Maggert, who ranks 156th in driving distance on the PGA Tour. “I've always felt like it's been a second-shot golf course, even before the changes. A guy that can manage his driver well and keep it in play, you make your birdies hitting solid iron shots.”
Weir, who has won twice this season, was coasting at 7 under after 53 holes. But, after a bogey at the par-4 ninth, Weir stumbled through the trilogy of holes known as Amen Corner, hitting it near the hazard line at No. 11 and knocking his second shot into Rae's Creek at the par-5 13th. In each instance, he made bogey and wound up with a 75 to finish 3 under.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Gerry Dulac is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.