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Published: Sunday, 4/10/2005

Masters notebook: Mickelson hasn't given up, but ...

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Phil Mickelson blasts from the sand on the second hole yesterday. He is 3-under par, but that's 10 shots off the lead. Phil Mickelson blasts from the sand on the second hole yesterday. He is 3-under par, but that's 10 shots off the lead.
ELISE AMENDOLA / AP Enlarge

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Chris DiMarco and Tiger Woods went on a birdie binge yesterday at Augusta National and among those left in the dust was defending Masters champion Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson completed 11 holes of his third round in 1-under before play was suspended. He is at 3-under for the tournament and 10 shots behind leader DiMarco.

"I'll never admit defeat," Mickelson said, chuckling a bit, "but I'm quite a ways back. I have 25 holes left and that's quite a lot of holes.

"If I make some birdies I can make a run. But it doesn't look so good.

"I've just made a few too many mistakes and you can't afford that when you're trying to make up ground. I suspect I've made more bogeys already that I did all of last year."

In winning his first major here last April, Mickelson recorded five bogeys and one double bogey over 72 holes. Through 47 holes of this year's Masters, he has eight bogeys.

Last year he won with a torrid finish, scoring birdies on five of the last seven holes during the final round.

Even that might not be enough today.

LIFT AND CLEAN: The way Woods was playing yesterday - 12 birdies in 26 holes - he didn't need many breaks. But he got one when the horn was sounded to suspend play at 7:35 p.m., just seconds after he had hit his tee shot on No. 10.

Under the rules of golf, he had the option of completing that hole. But when he arrived at his ball the back of it was covered by a glob of mud. So he chose to place his mark and he'll be able to set down a clean ball when play resumes this morning.

"That made it a no-brainer," he said. "It was a great break that they blew the horn. We knew it would happen either at 7:45 or when the last group finished nine, whichever came first.

"I guess I'm lucky Chris and Thomas finished the front when they did.

"It's going to be another long day tomorrow. We'll just be patient and grind out 27 holes and see what happens."

ENJOYING HIMSELF: Denmark's Thomas Bjorn resumes third-round play today in third place, one shot behind Woods and five strokes behind playing partner DiMarco. He had completed nine holes of the third round and was 8-under for the tournament.

He feels he is playing well because, for the first time, he is not putting added pressure on himself at a major championship.

"I'm hitting the ball very solidly and I'm playing pretty much as well as I'm capable of here," he said.

"I'm enjoying my golf probably more than I ever have. I play with much more patience. I just play my game and see how far it takes me.

"This is probably the first time in a major that I feel I'm really enjoying myself on the course. That might be the key. I've always turned other majors into hard work and it doesn't have to be that way."

HEADS UP: The 18th hole got a bit dangerous yesterday morning, when a strong breeze blowing into the golfers' faces sent several shots flying way off line.

Stuart Appleby nearly struck patrons camped out along the left side with his approach to the green.

"Sorry about that," the Aussie quipped when he arrived at the spot.

"I was trying to hit it over there," he added, pointing to the flag at least 50 feet away.

Appleby wound up making a nice pitch onto the green, salvaging par.

In the very next group, Lee Westwood hooked his second shot even farther left than Appleby.

The ball flew into the seating section atop a 25-foot-high viewing tower and plunked a reporter in the side.

It eventually dropped to the ground not far from where Appleby's ball landed.

Westwood also managed to pitch onto the green and save par, but it didn't save him from missing the cut.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at: dhackenberg@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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