Woods shoots to front

68 puts him 1 ahead of Mickelson entering Masters' final round

Tiger sees `a lot of fun'

Calcavecchia pushes into tie with DiMarco at two shots behind

April 08, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. - It took awhile.

For Tiger Woods, it took 50 holes to earn a share of the lead for the first time in the 65th Masters, and one more hole to grab it all by himself going into today's final round.

For Phil Mickelson, it took a couple of three-putt greens to nearly take himself out of contention here at Augusta National, but only one putt - his last of the day - to put himself back in the hunt.

For Mark Calcavecchia, it took 13 years to give himself another chance at a green jacket and a second major championship.

Woods shot a 4-under-par 68 in yesterday's third round for a three-round total of 12-under-par 204, giving him a one-stroke lead over Mickelson and a two-shot lead over Calcavecchia and journeyman Chris DiMarco, the first- and second-round leader.

Today will mark the first time that Woods, 25 and ranked first in the world, and Mickelson, 30 and ranked second, will be paired together in the final round of a major with the tournament on the line. Mickelson has beaten Woods down the stretch twice in the past 15 months.

"Phil's obviously, as everyone knows, a wonderful player ... but you can't go out there thinking it's just Phil and myself," said Woods, who will be looking to win an unprecedented fourth straight major.

"If you look at the board, there's some guys who have won some serious tournaments around the world, and it's going to be a lot of fun."

Said Mickelson, still looking for the first major championship of his nine-year career: "I certainly have a lot of respect for Tiger as a player and as a person and what he goes through and what he has accomplished in golf.

"But I do have the confidence to prevail. ... I don't think Tiger and I will look at this as match play. There are a number of incredible players who are three or four shots behind."

Two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, David Duval and Angel Cabrera of Argentina are three strokes behind. Rocco Mediate and Kirk Triplett are four back. Four others, including two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, are five back.

"Anybody on this leader board, you know, we've all got a fair chance tomorrow," said Els, who stayed in contention with a second straight 68. "Experience might fly out the window tomorrow. You might get a [Masters] rookie. But obviously Tiger is Tiger and he's not going to back down."

Yesterday proved that again. Not playing particularly well, Woods made only one birdie on the front nine and another on the par-4 11th, but still found himself trailing DiMarco by two strokes when he bogeyed the par-3 12th hole to fall back to 9-under par. Woods also was three shots behind Cabrera briefly before the Argentine fell back.

Starting with the par-5 13th, Woods narrowly missed an eagle before settling for the first of three straight birdies. When he birdied and DiMarco bogeyed the par-5 15th, Woods suddenly had a two-shot lead. Mickelson cut the lead to one when he birdied the par-4 18th from 12 feet after also making birdie at 17.

It was redemption for Mickelson, who had butchered the par-5 eighth hole by going from a certain birdie to a bogey by three-putting from six feet, and then chunked a chip on the par-4 14th before three-putting for double bogey. The idea of playing with Woods motivated Mickelson on the last two holes.

"I knew I needed to birdie 17 and 18 to play with him," said Mickelson, who came from a stroke back at last year's Tour Championship in Atlanta to beat Woods, to go along with another win over Woods in the Buick Invitational earlier in the year.

Both ended winning streaks by Woods, as would also be the case today since Woods has also won the last three PGA Tour events in which he has played.

Woods said last night that he is not thinking about the historic implications of a win here that would go along with his victories last year in the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship that made him the first player since the legendary Ben Hogan to win three majors in the same year.

"I haven't thought about it," he said with barely any expression. "I'm kind of thinking about my swing and working on it on the range."

When someone asked Woods if he isn't excited about the chance of doing something that might never again be accomplished in a lifetime, he broke into a smile.

"I hope you live a little longer, then," he said.

Calcavecchia had hoped to get his chance to play with Woods, as well. A friend of Woods through their teacher, Butch Harmon, Calcavecchia has never been in contention here since finishing second to Sandy Lyle in 1988. His injury-plagued career has been rejuvenated by wins in each of the past two years.

"I think he kind of gets a kick out of me, somebody that's a little different, a little bit off the cuff, so to speak," said Calcavecchia, who stayed in contention with a 4-under 68. "I'm not afraid to tell him what I think."

And what does Calcavecchia think of Woods' chances today?

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