Tiger Woods refuses to fade away | AspenTimes.com

Tiger Woods refuses to fade away

Larry Dorman
The New York Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Tiger Woods tosses grass in the air to read the winds from the fourth tee box Saturday during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. (Jason Getz/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

AUGUSTA, Ga. ” For the past five years, the search has been on for some worthy young challengers to take on Tiger Woods. In the third round of the Masters Saturday, on a wet, gray day at Augusta National Golf Club, some new leading men volunteered for the job.

Trevor Immelman, 28, birdied the 18th hole for a round of 69 that gave him an 11-under-par total of 205 and a two-stroke lead over Brandt Snedeker, 27, who shot a 70. Steve Flesch, the veteran among the leaders at age 40, is three strokes back after a 69, and Paul Casey, a 30-year-old Englishman, is four strokes back at 209.

Woods served notice that he will not be giving up his quest for the first leg of the Grand Slam and his fifth Masters title without a fight. He punched his way up the leader board with a round of 68 and is at five- under par, six strokes off the pace. Although the historical mark­ers do not favor Woods ” “You mean the guy in fifth place?” Snedeker joked ” and 16 of the last 17 Masters winners have come from the final pairing, he is poised to give it his best shot.

“There’s no doubt, I put myself right back in the tournament,” Woods said. “As I said, this was as high a score as I could have shot today, and if I have a few more putts go in I’m right there, but I’m still right there anyways.

“I got a lot of work to do tomor­row,” he added. “Obviously, the conditions are supposed to be pret­ty blustery tomorrow and a little cooler. You’ve got to hang in there and be patient out there because it doesn’t take much to make a high number out here.”

Obviously, Woods is not expect­ing to be the one who puts up a high number. If he wins, he will have to get some help from the leaders. For their part, Immelman and Snedeker seem disinclined to give it.

But with the huge presence of the world’s No. 1 golfer hovering over the proceedings, with his name with a large red five signifying his under-par position prominently displayed on the leader boards around the golf course, the new wave did not break up and crash ashore.

Both Immelman and Snedeker, playing together in the last pairing of the day on Saturday and again on Sunday, birdied the 18th hole. It was a statement by the two young players, and there was no mistaking what it meant.

“Birdieing the 18th hole isn’t an easy thing,” said Snedeker, who bounced back from bogeying all three holes in Amen Corner with birdies at the 14th, 15th and 18th holes. “I’m really proud of myself for that birdie.”

Woods felt the same about his round.

“That was probably as high as I could go,” he said. “I hit the ball well all day, hit a lot of good putts that didn’t quite have the right speed or the right line. It was just a touch off, and you’re going to pay the price.”

Once again, Woods pulled a great escape out of the trees right of the 18th fairway. He pushed his drive into the pines and needed a near miracle to find the green.

Explaining that he was 180 yards from the hole and had to hit the right trajectory, Woods noted that he had a choice to make. “I said, ‘You know what, either you’re making 6 or you’re making 4, one of the two. Let’s go ahead and try to make 4 here.'” He made the 4 and put himself in con­tention. Phil Mickelson, who started the day at five-under par, went the other way. To watch his round of golf was to risk severe whiplash. Mickelson ran at the leaders like a man attached to a bungee cord. Up he went, to six-under par with a birdie at the second hole; down he went, to two-under par, with bogeys at Nos. 6, 8, 10 and 12; up he went to four-under par with back-to-back birdies at the 13th and 14th.

Then down he went to two-under par with a short birdie miss at the 15th and a double-bogey at No. 16, seemingly ending his chances of winning a third Masters title.

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