Weir fades from lead in big way with a 75

Canadian left-hander falls only to second place

Notebook

Masters

Golf

April 13, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The 67th Masters had all the appearances of a blowout yesterday afternoon. The leader was ahead by six shots and trying to make history. But Mike Weir couldn't quite complete his impersonation of Tiger Woods.

Weir, attempting to become the first Canadian to win a major professional golf championship and the first left-hander to win here at Augusta National, still has a chance.

About the only good thing to be said about his back-nine collapse that led to a 3-over par 75 was that it happened in the third round rather than the final round. Then Weir could have been imitating Greg Norman.

"My round was a little disappointing today," said Weir, 32. "I would have obviously liked to play better. I didn't play particularly poorly, but my iron shots were a little off."

The shot Weir wouldn't mind having back was a 3-iron from 215 yards away on the par-5 13th hole. It wound up in the tributary to Rae's Creek and Weir wound up with a bogey. It was one of four he made in the final 10 holes.

"You have to kind of have the philosophy going into the round that you're going to be faced with some challenges out here," said Weir, who took a 4-shot lead into the third round.

"I mean, even if you shoot 65, you're challenged. You're going to have to make some par putts. You have to make a lot of putts to shoot 65. But there's also challenges in shooting 75 and I had a bunch of those today."

Weir, who won two PGA Tour events this year after not having a Top 10 finish last year, looked like he was in control for most of the front nine.

He made a birdie on the par-5 second hole to get to 7-under and recovered from a bogey on the par-3 fourth with another birdie after sticking an approach to 2 feet on the par-4 seventh.

"I felt good on the course today, I felt very comfortable," he said. "It just didn't pan out."

Today marks the first time since the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah that Weir will play in the last group in a major. In that instance, Weir was paired with Wood. Weir faded with a final-round 80 and finished tied for 10th. (Guess who won?)

"I don't know if it's a proving ground, it's a step in the right direction," said Weir, who consulted over the winter with a sports psychologist and a fitness trainer. "I'm getting there and hopefully I can do it."

Big Three departs

Yesterday marked the 20th straight year that four-time Masters champion Arnold Palmer missed the cut. But considering the wet and miserable conditions on Thursday, Palmer didn't seem that disappointed about shooting 11-over 83.

"I feel great," said Palmer, 73. "It wasn't that tough. I enjoyed it. I could've gone another 36."

While Palmer wasn't perturbed by his performance, six-time champion Jack Nicklaus was very discouraged. While he improved from an opening-round 85 - his worst score in a PGA Tour event - with a 77, Nicklaus doesn't sound like he has many Masters, if any, left.

"I didn't enjoy the last two days," said Nicklaus, 63. "I didn't play halfway decent. I didn't enjoy or compete this year. If we have dry conditions, I'll play. If it's like this again next year, I may drop out on Wednesday."

The other member of golf's old Big Three also failed to make the cut. Three-time champion Gary Player shot rounds of 82 and 80 to miss the cut for the fifth straight year.

Though he applauded Masters chairman Hootie Johnson for rescinding last year's rule change that would have prevented the 67-year-old Player from competing here, the feisty South African isn't afraid of what seems inevitable.

"If I'm not playing well, I won't play," he said. "I know when to stop."

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