ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Young Jason Day jumped into the Masters fray with a second-round 64 and, despite off-and-on struggles that left him four shots behind after Saturday's third round, is still considered a candidate to become the first Australian to win at Augusta National.
But he is not alone in that regard.
Adam Scott, once a budding superstar who has become something of a forgotten man over the last couple years, had a 5-under 67 Saturdayto jump into contention.
Scott, 30, was asked if he was a mentor of sorts for the 23-year-old Day, who broke through a year ago to win the PGA Tour's Byron Nelson Classic.
"I don't know, it's hard to mentor a guy who is beating me," Scott said, laughing. "He's already achieved so much. Maybe he's got some advice for me."
If so, it can be delivered today. The two countrymen, part of a four-way tie for second place at 8-under 208, will be paired together.
There's no question who served as Scott's inspiration — fellow Aussie Greg Norman.
"I spent my whole childhood watching Greg play here and contend here," Scott said. "I think the whole country did. I mean, Greg was bigger than just golf in Australia. He was an icon."
Norman was a runner-up here three times, including one of the most stunning Masters losses ever in 1996. Norman led Nick Faldo by six shots entering the final round, but shot 78 and lost by five strokes.
"That was very hard," said Scott, who admitted there were tears that day. "It was very hard to watch. Everyone was devastated. We all really felt for Greg."
Aussies haven't stopped dreaming of a Masters win, Scott said.
"The dream to come here and play is huge; to win is even bigger, probably indescribable. It's one of the things we haven't accomplished in Australian sport. It's not like there's a voodoo on us. One day it's going to happen. I still certainly dream about that and it is Jason's first time here and he's making a really great run at it. Shooting 64 like he did [Friday] at Augusta is amazing."
The closest to amazing Scott came Saturday was a driver-6 iron combination on the 510-yard 13th hole that set him up for an eagle putt from six feet. His scorecard included that eagle, six birdies, and three bogeys.
"It was moving day and that's what I needed to do," Scott said. "I felt like I played OK the first two days [72-70] but it was a little bit off. Today, everything kind of fell into place. It was nice to get a bit of momentum going and keep it going for most of the round."
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SEVE: Seve Ballesteros' birthday is still a big deal, even if he's not at the Masters.
The two-time champion, who is not here as he battles brain cancer, turned 54 on Saturday. Several European players tweeted birthday wishes to the Spaniard before they teed off, including third-round leader Rory McIlroy, and Jose Maria Olazabal called Ballesteros before he left for Augusta National.
"I called to say ‘Happy Birthday,' and to pass along all of the good wishes from the rest of the champions," said Olazabal, a fellow Spaniard and two-time Masters winner.
Ballesteros is undergoing chemotherapy, which Olazabal said "takes a toll" on him. But he has been following the Masters, where Ballesteros' second victory in 1983 set off a wave of dominance by European golfers. A European won the green jacket eight of the next 11 years.
LEFTY'S LAMENT: Defending champion Phil Mickelson figured Saturday would be the day to go low and get back into the mix.
He barely moved.
Mickelson made only three birdies in the third round for a 71, leaving him nine shots out of the lead and in need of an improbable comeback if he wants to win a fourth green jacket and rise to No. 1 in the world.
After making 18 birdies last weekend to win the Houston Open, Mickelson feels he can't make anything at all.
"Yeah, it's been a little frustrating on the greens," he said. "I putted so well last week at Houston, I expected to come out this week and kind of light it up."
That doesn't mean he has given up. The biggest comeback in Masters history was eight shots by Jack Burke Jr. in 1956, the year Ken Venturi shot 80.
"I'm going to be quite a few back, but on Sunday a lot can happen," Mickelson said. "I'm not going to count myself out. I've shot low scores here before, I believe I can do it again and I'm going to give myself every opportunity tomorrow to do that."
ONE GOOD MEMORY: Rickie Fowler has one good memory to take from an otherwise disappointing afternoon.
The 22-year-old was paired Saturday with former Masters champion Fred Couples, who seems to shave a dozen years or so off his age any time he drives up Magnolia Lane. The 51-year-old, who won at Augusta National in 1992, is in contention for a second straight year, going into the final round tied for ninth at 5-under.
"A couple times I had to sit back and remind myself we're playing the Masters on Saturday and I'm getting to play with Freddie, someone who I've looked up to since I was a little kid," Fowler said. "It was obviously not the round I wanted, but I was just out there a couple times reminding myself to try to calm me down a little bit and relax."
Fowler began the day tied for seventh after playing "Can you top this?" in the first two rounds with fellow Whiz Kids Rory McIlroy and Jason Day. But while McIlroy and Day were holding their own on Saturday, Fowler backed up with a 4-over 76. He's now 1-under, 11 shots behind McIlroy.
"The game feels really good," Fowler said. "I got a couple bad breaks and then made a couple bad swings that cost me. Some of those things just happened at the wrong time."
ERNIE AND THE MARKER: Ernie Els was the first to tee off Saturday, having made the cut on the number. It's an unusual spot for the three-time major champion, so he was surprised to find that he would have company.
Els played with a non-competing marker, Augusta National member Jeff Knox. The Big Easy could have played by himself, but Knox was already waiting when Els got to the first tee.
"We went and played," Els said. "I didn't ask any questions."
Knox is no slouch, once shooting a 61 from the member tees at Augusta. Els wasn't sure what he shot, although Knox held his own and often had the honors on the tee as Els struggled to a 76.
"He shot about the same as I did," Els said.
"He played really well."
Asked if he was aware that Knox had shot 61 at Augusta, Els said: "He told me. Pretty impressive for any tees. I don't care if you play off the ladies tees, that's pretty impressive."
— This report contains information from the Associated Press.