From across pond, Casey makes splash

2 off pace, Brit could win first Masters he's played

Wittenberg, 19, on rise

Notebook

The Masters

April 11, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Paul Casey went to Arizona State a few years after Phil Mickelson, but if the 26-year-old Englishman wins the 68th Masters today, he'll have a lot more in common with Fuzzy Zoeller than he does with his fellow Sun Devil.

With a 4-under-par 68 in yesterday's third round, Casey put himself in position to become the only player aside from Zoeller - and the first in 25 years - to win in his debut at Augusta National. At 4-under-par 212, Casey trails co-leaders Mickelson and Chris DiMarco by two strokes.

"I think I've approached this differently to how I've approached majors in the past," said Casey, who has won three times on the European Tour, including twice last year. "I think I've put too much pressure on myself in the past."

Casey and two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer of Germany, who is at 3-under 213 after shooting a 3-under 69 yesterday, will take up the cause for their continent.

Justin Rose, the 23-year-old Englishman who led after each of the first two rounds, fell out of contention with an 81 yesterday while Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal, whose victory five years ago here was the last by a European, went from sharing the lead to disappearing after a 79.

"Being the Masters champion strikes a nerve back home in the U.K. because of the success the Europeans have had, whether it's [Sandy] Lyle, [Ian] Woosnam, [Nick] Faldo and other Europeans as well," said Casey. "I would dearly love to continue that trend."

Casey, who finished tied for 10th in The Players Championship last month, holds the distinction of breaking the Pac-10 single tournament scoring record that once belonged to Tiger Woods at Stanford as well as Mickelson's Pac-10 record for scoring average.

Captain to contender

Langer, who is expected to serve as the non-playing captain on this year's European team when it comes to defend the Ryder Cup, won't give up those responsibilities even if he should win his third Masters today.

"I don't know why everybody keeps asking. Once I make up my mind, that's it," said Langer. "I said I would not play. I want to be the captain. I've put a lot of work into the captaincy already."

Langer, 46, seemed to be falling out of contention when he bogeyed the par-4 14th to fall five shots back. But he eagled the par-5 15th to get back to 3-under.

"I was kind of mad at myself at 14," said Langer. "I had played a great chip and then lipped out the putt. But I was very fortunate with an eagle to come back with two very good shots."

The eagle has landed

Casey Wittenberg, a 19-year-old junior at Oklahoma State, hit one of the best shots of the day when he holed out from the fairway on the 490-yard 10th hole. The eagle helped Wittenberg in his round of 1-under-par 71.

"I heard the crowd's reaction and I knew it was either close or in," said Wittenberg, who hit a 7-iron from 177 yards. "It's unbelievable that it was on that hole and in this tournament."

It was one of many great memories Wittenberg will take from this week, which began when he played a practice round with three-time champion Woods and former champion Mark O'Meara, continued when he played the first two rounds with Woods and will conclude today when he will likely be low amateur.

"I'm just trying to play as good as I can," said Wittenberg, who is from Memphis, Tenn.

Wittenberg is four shots ahead of the only other amateur to make the cut, Brandt Snedeker, a 23-year-old from Nashville.

Asked what he was going do after the round, Wittenberg said, "Sit on the couch and watch TV and act like a kid."

Good to the last drop

Ernie Els, who won his first major championship in the 1994 U.S. Open when he got a favorable drop after hitting near a television tower, might have stayed in contention here when he got another ruling in his favor during the third round yesterday.

After driving his ball deep into the woods to the left of the 11th fairway, Els was able to get a drop when it was ruled that his ball landed among fallen branches that were supposed to have been cleared away.

Instead of going back to the tee, Els took a drop, got his ball into the fairway and wound up with a bogey. He finished with a 1-under 71 and at 3-under 213 is three strokes off the lead.

"I would say it was a good drop," said Els. "But that's why there are rules."

TV change

Due to a threatening weather forecast, CBS moved up its coverage of today's final round to 1:30 p.m.

Today's tee times

Final round

a-amateur

10:30 a.m.: Jeff Sluman, Chris Riley

10:40 a.m.: Todd Hamilton, Brad Faxon

10:50 a.m.: Tim Petrovic, a-Brandt Snedeker

11 a.m.: Scott Verplank, Ian Poulter

11:10 a.m.: Eduardo Romero, Sandy Lyle

11:20 a.m.: Steve Flesch, Bob Estes

11:30 a.m.: Phillip Price, Bob Tway

11:40 a.m.: Paul Lawrie, Stephen Leaney

11:50 a.m.: Justin Leonard, Stuart Appleby

Noon: Justin Rose, Shaun Micheel

12:10 p.m.: Tiger Woods, Jose Maria Olazabal

12:20 p.m.: Jerry Kelly, Sergio Garcia

12:30 p.m.: Alex Cejka, a-Casey Wittenberg

12:40 p.m.: Mark O'Meara, Charles Howell III

12:50 p.m.: Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen

1 p.m.: Fred Couples, Davis Love III

1:10 p.m.: Nick Price, Jay Haas

1:20 p.m.: Padraig Harrington, Stewart Cink

1:30 p.m.: Kirk Triplett, Fredrik Jacobson

1:40 p.m.: Ernie Els, K.J. Choi

1:50 p.m.: Paul Casey, Bernhard Langer

2 p.m.: Chris Dimarco, Phil Mickelson

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