Maggert Up by Two; Tiger Lurking
Jeff Maggert, currently ranked 117th in the world, fired a six-under 66 on Saturday to take the third-round lead of The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Maggert, at five-under-par 211, is two clear of second-round leader Mike Weir as many of golf's elite players made their move to the top of the leaderboard.
Vijay Singh, the 2000 Masters winner, and David Toms posted matching rounds of two-under 70 and share third place at two-under-par 214.
Tiger Woods, who holed a four-foot par save on his 36th hole to make the cut on the number, also carded a six-under 66 Saturday and is now part of a group tied for fifth at one-under par. Phil Mickelson and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal joined the two-time defending champion four shots off the lead.
"All I needed to do was get off to a positive start," said Woods, who can become the first player to win three consecutive green jackets. "Things weren't going well. All I needed is to get some positive feelings going again."
Since Woods barely survived the 36-hole cut he went off the 10th tee in the third round. He made a 50-foot birdie putt at the 11th to get started and added two more on his opening nine to get to two-over par.
Woods made the turn with a birdie at two, but his play later on Augusta's front nine got him back into the tournament. He drained another long birdie putt at No. 6, then spun his approach to tap-in range at the seventh to polish off his second 66 in the third round in as many years.
"I just keep playing and I just the play the golf course for what it gives me," said Woods. "You just go out there and play to win the tournament. I'm trying to win a tournament."
Woods is going for a historical third consecutive Masters title. Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo have also won two in a row, but no player has pulled off the three-peat.
Woods has history going against him. No player has ever been down 11 shots after 36 holes and gone on to win at Augusta National. And in the last 12 Masters, the eventual winner has come out of the final pairing on Sunday.
The final pairing this Sunday will feature Maggert and Weir, and the duo took very different paths on Saturday to their Sunday afternoon tee time.
Maggert collected three birdies through 10 holes, but double-bogeyed No. 11 to drop down the leaderboard. That was short-lived as Maggert recorded back-to- back birdies at 13 and 14 and found himself alone in second place, four shots behind Weir.
Maggert kept at it by reaching the green in two at the par-five 15th. His long eagle try missed the hole, then he missed the birdie putt before walking off with a three-putt par.
The 15th was Maggert's last par on Saturday. He hit a beautiful tee ball to six feet to set up birdie at No. 16, sank a 15-footer for birdie at the 17th which tied him for the lead, and holed a 12-foot birdie at the last to close his round of 66.
"I didn't hit the ball well the first two rounds and I struggled a little bit today," said Maggert, a three-time Ryder Cupper. "I'm very pleased with the way I'm starting to strike the ball now."
Maggert's position on top of the leaderboard is somewhat shocking. He hasn't won on tour since the 1999 Match Play Championship and he only has one top-10 in nine appearances at Augusta. He has six top-10s in the U.S. Open, including a third-place finish behind Woods and Mickelson at Bethpage last year.
"Tomorrow's going to be, obviously, new for me," said Maggert. "I have been in a position to maybe win a major championship, certainly a couple U.S. Opens, but I feel good at where I'm at now. But I have a lot of work to do tomorrow. So I'm just thinking more about the work that I need to do and not about trying to win the golf tournament."
Weir was cruising along with a six-shot edge midway through Saturday's third round. He dropped a shot at No. 9, then plugged his approach into a hill at the 11th. Weir did all he could to muscle the ball to 20 feet where he missed the putt for another bogey.
The Canadian went for the green in two at 13, but instead found the bottom of Rae's Creek. Weir bogeyed that hole as well, then birdied the 15th to stop the bleeding.
At the 16th, Weir hit a terrible seven-iron and it cost him as he bogeyed the hole to fall one behind Maggert, who was already in the clubhouse. Weir sprayed another iron shot at 17 and three-putted from 60 feet for bogey.
When it was all over, Weir posted a three-over 75, but he was still in the hunt for his first major championship.
"Sure, my round was a little disappointing today," said Weir. "I'm still in the last group tomorrow, still have a great chance to win tomorrow if I play a really solid round and I'm really looking forward to it."
Jim Furyk (71), Jonathan Byrd (71) and Len Mattiace (69) are tied for eighth place at even-par 216.
Darren Clarke, the first-round leader who played with Weir in the final group of the third round, struggled to a six-over 78 on Saturday. He fell into a tie for 27th at four-over 220.
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