Wild weather, 68 put Woods in Masters hunt

He's 2 behind Roberts, leader in clubhouse

Singh, Duval cut short

The Masters

April 09, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Funny how a rain delay of more than two hours and the cold front that came in behind can play havoc with a major golf tournament such as the 64th Masters.

It kept the final pairing of yesterday's third round from teeing off until after 4 p.m. and prevented the two front- runners from finishing up until this morning.

It forced those in charge of the tournament to do something never done here before: they permitted CBS to televise the last few groups playing on the heretofore mysterious front nine for the first time in history.

Most significantly, it gave Tiger Woods a chance to make an early run, then provided him with a legitimate shot after strong winds and dipping temperatures caused nearly all of those ahead of him to come back to the pack.

Woods climbed into the hunt with a 4-under-par 68 that left him at 1-under par 215 after three rounds. Of those who finished their rounds, Loren Roberts was the leader at 213 after shooting a 71. He three-putted the 17th when he couldn't punch his putts hard enough through the wind.

Woods is tied with former PGA champion Davis Love III and Canadian left-hander Mike Weir. Relative to par, he's six shots behind Vijay Singh and four in back of second-round leader David Duval. Darkness forced Singh and Duval off the course after 14 holes.

Singh was 2-under for the day through 14 after birdies at the par-3 12th and par-4 14th, where he narrowly missed holing out from the fairway for eagle. He will be looking for the second major championship of his eight-year career, following his win at the 1998 PGA Championship.

"I played well," said Singh, 37. "I said all along that I was hitting the ball well all week. I dealt with the weather pretty well, I guess. After a while, you see the scoreboard and see everybody was dropping off. I was thinking about hitting good shots and not thinking about what others were doing."

Playing in the final group with Singh, Duval was 2-over for the day. After a double bogey on the par-3 12th, where his tee shot caught a gust of wind and rolled back into a pond, Duval birdied the par-5 13th. Both Singh and Duval were on the 15th fairway when play was finally called at 7: 45 last night.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa was at 3-under through 15 after dropping two strokes. Phil Mickelson was at 2-under through 15 after dropping three.

After coming into the day tied for 39th, Woods made up some ground while he played and even more long after he left the course. When he and Love finished their rounds, they were tied for 11th. By the time play was called, they were tied for sixth with Weir, who had a 2-under-par 70.

"Well, I went out there and the wind was blowing pretty hard," said Woods, who with the rain delay teed off some 5 1/2 hours before Singh and Duval. "I just wanted to get out there and get to even par if I possibly could."

Woods, 24, did even better than that. Starting out with two pars and a bogey that put him 10 shots behind, Woods saved par on the par-3 fourth hole and then started a string of four straight birdies beginning at the par-4 seventh.

"The key to my round was the up-and-down at 4," said Woods, whose score was his first under 70 here in 11 rounds. "There was a wonderful flop shot from the gallery to about 2 feet. It wasn't an easy shot, but I pulled it off. And I felt if I keep plugging along, I'd be all right. And I made birdie on 7."

Woods was totally unaffected by the rain delay that began shortly after his fourth birdie. While he said he ate during the delay, which lasted 2 hours and 5 minutes, he still seemed to have quite an appetite in terms of his comeback.

After another terrific up-and-down on the par-3 12th -- he had to hit out of a bunker with 1 foot in it and one out -- Woods made birdie on the par-4 15th by reaching the green of the 500-yard hole in two shots. He narrowly missed another birdie on the par-3 16th before making a bogey on the par-4 17th.

Asked how good a round of 68 was yesterday, Woods said, "If you watched the round today, I really did play good. I hit so many good shots and controlled the flight of the ball. To shoot 68 in those conditions, I'm really proud."

Said Love, who also shot 68, "I got the best of it today. I would say the guys that got those late tee times didn't get the best of it. Those guys who are playing now are not real happy. They're getting a bad break. I'm not going to say I hope those guys shoot terrible today. I hope they get what I got the first day (75) and nothing worse. How's that for a political answer?"

The deficit Woods faces is hardly daunting to a player who has become legendary, both as an amateur and a pro, for his comebacks. Most recent was the seven shots that he made up over the last seven holes to win this year's Pebble Beach AT&T. He has also came back from as many as 10 shots to win.

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