The Masters

Immelman lead holds firm

2nd-round leader still tops field

Woods lurks after shooting 68

April 13, 2008|By Rick Maese | Rick Maese,Sun reporter

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Before they step to the first tee box this afternoon, their names will be announced and the genial applause will be accompanied by at least a few quizzical stares. So let's just get the more detailed introduction out of the way:

Ladies and gentlemen, the final pairing in the final round of the 72nd Masters: Trevor Immelman and Brandt Snedeker.

(Insert quizzical stares here.)

You might remember Immelman, the 28-year-old South African, from such hits as the 2006 Western Open and that surprising fifth-place finish at the 2005 Masters. And you just might recall hearing about Snedeker, the 27-year-old from Nashville, Tenn., from the 2007 Wyndham Championship or at least from his successful run with the Vanderbilt golf team.

Not enough for you? Well, that's no surprise. After three rounds, there are four obscure names atop the leader board and one Tiger Woods lurking in the fifth slot, six strokes off the lead and injecting plenty of intrigue into today's final round.

"To sit here and say we are not going to be thinking about Tiger Woods tomorrow is crazy because we are," Snedeker said. "Just like everybody else in this room is and just like everybody else in this world is. We're human. What can we say?"

But despite his busy moving day, Woods still has quite a deficit to overcome. For the third straight day, Immelman played steady and smart golf, shooting a 69 that put him at 11-under-par. He holds a two-stroke lead over Snedeker.

After shooting a third-round 69, Steve Flesch begins today at 8-under, three shots behind the leader, and Paul Casey, aided by four birdies on the front nine yesterday, is four shots back, at 7-under.

But the one most will be watching is Woods, who recovered from lackluster opening rounds and put himself back in contention with a 68, good for 5-under and six shots behind Immelman. He played his first bogey-free round of this tournament and improved his standing by four strokes. Making up six strokes over the final 18 holes is not unprecedented. The last to do it was Gary Player in 1978.

Trying for his fifth Masters win, Woods has never won a major when trailing after 54 holes. While that fact is often repeated, Woods downplayed its significance. "You want to win the Masters, period," he said. "Doesn't really matter how you do it, as long as you do it."

And just how will he do it? Woods says an aggressive approach might not necessarily be a winning one today.

"Not out here. Especially not under the conditions we're going to have [today]," he said.

"You just got to hang in there and hang around. You know that anything can happen, especially around that corner, with the wind, if the wind's blowing all over the place. "

The top four on the leader board have zero majors among them, and Flesch is the only one in the group who's older than 30.

"I have nothing to lose. Nobody expects Steve Flesch to do much in the Masters tournament," Flesch said. "But I have a big heart, and I'm a gritty competitor."

While fans on the course and those on their living-room couches will be charting Woods' progress today, the top challengers realize that Woods is just one obstacle. In fact, the third-round leader has gone on to win 40 times in Masters history.

"The guy I'm most concerned with right now is Trevor Immelman," Snedeker said.

Immelman was also the 36-hole leader and only briefly relinquished the lead yesterday. On the back nine, he posted birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 18.

"There's so many great golfers out there that if I start resting on a two-shot lead here, I'm not going to do very well [today]," Immelman said. "I'm going to go out there ... and give it my best shot. That's all I can ask from myself is just to play as hard as I can."

Snedeker momentarily led at the turn. But he posted bogeys on the course's famous trio of holes.

"I think I figured out why they call it Amen Corner. That's the best way to put it," said Snedeker, who recovered and birdied three of the final five holes.

One player who surprisingly slipped down the leader board was Phil Mickelson, who had a double bogey and four bogeys on his third-round scorecard. His 3-over 75 leaves him tied for seventh at 2-under.rick.maese@baltsun.com

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