April 11, 2008

Saturday's Winners And Losers

Golf World's John Antonini analyzes third round Masters action and tells you who came out on top and who didn't

Winners

Trevor Immelman

The South African's story is getting more well-known every day. He picked up a stomach bug at last year's Masters and suffered through a horrible 2007 season where he couldn't buy a putt. Then he had a golf-ball size tumor removed from his diaphragm before the 2008 season began. Upon his return Immelman has finished no better than T-40 in a stroke-play event on the PGA Tour this year, yet he has the lead heading into the final round at the Masters. The second-round leader had a spectacular Saturday. He didn't miss a fairway until the 17th hole en route to a three-under 69 that saw him take a two-stroke lead over Brandt Snedeker and three over Steve Flesch. Immelman's final approach on 18 epitomized his day, his ball landing four feet from the cup resulted in an easy birdie and his third straight sub-70 score. But he needed a little luck as well. On the 15th, Immelman's approach rolled off the green and down the shaved slope toward the creek, but amazingly the ball stopped in a slight depression instead of rolling into the water. It was reminisent of Fred Couples ball hanging up on the ledge instead of falling into Rae's Creek on the 12th hole Sunday in 1992. Immelman pitched close to the hole, made his par and stayed at 10 under. The birdie on 18 got him to 11-under 205.

Tiger Woods

Not five seconds after he finished his round, CBS ran a graphic showing that Woods has never won a major when trailing after 54 holes, however Tiger had to feel good about his third-round 68 that included four birdies and no bogeys. For the second straight day he put the finishing touches on his round with a remarkable par on the 18th hole. Just as he did Friday, Woods hit his tee ball into the pine straw, but unlike in the second round, when he made par after hitting his second shot on the 10th fairway, Woods hit his 8-iron up and over the trees onto the green. He two-putted for a 4 and at the time he finished was fifth, four strokes off the lead. None of the players ahead of him (Trevor Immelman, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Flesch and Paul Casey) have ever really contended in a major, but when they finished their rounds more than an hour later, Tiger was still in fifth, six strokes behind Immelman. Still Tiger was unperturbed. "I put myself right back in the tournament," he told CBS. As if he ever was out of it.

Brandt Snedeker and Paul Casey

At times both of these players could have been on the losers side of the ledger. Snedeker was nine under after 10 holes, but bogeyed his way through Amen Corner to fall back to six under. It was quite a change from the way he played the famous trio of holes in his first-ever round at the Masters when he birdied all three as an amateur in 2004. But he recovered and made three birdies in his last five holes to stand two strokes back of Trevor Immelman as the day ended. He'll be paired with the South African in the final group tomorrow. Casey bogeyed 11, 15 and 17 but still finished the day in fourth place at seven under thanks to four birdies on the front and two others on the back.

Steve Flesch

The week's top lefty had a consistent day, making four birdies to just one bogey. If not for a final-hole birdie by Snedeker, Flesch would have been playing in the final group. Instead, three off Immelman's lead, Flesch won't have the additional pressure of playing in the last pairing of the day.

Losers

Phil Mickelson

The lovable lefty got to six under with a birdie on No. 2 but he made four bogeys in seven holes starting at the sixth. He regrouped and made birdies on 13 and 14, but after nearly holing his third shot on 15, he mised a five-foot birdie putt and had to settle for a disappointing par. Minutes later on 16 he hit his tee ball far to the right and ended up in the bunker. His blast rolled down the slope of the green and his long putt for par ended up eight feet short. He missed the next putt, too, resulting in double bogey. He made par on 17 and 18 to finish at three-over 75 on the day and stands at T-7, two-under for the tournament.

Robert Karlsson

The Swede was sitting pretty at four under after a birdie on the par-3 16th, but a double-bogey on 18 dropped him to T-7 with Mickelson and seven others. If not for the final-hole gaffe, Karlsson would have been paired with Tiger Woods Sunday.

The Canadians

Mike Weir and Stephen Ames were both in the top 10 entering the third round but neither could build on their early success. Weir, the 2003 champ, made three birdies and six bogeys on his way to a 75 to fall from T-8 to T-19. Ames was tied for sixth coming into Saturday after a pair of 70s but he made bogeys and a double at the par-3 16th to finish at 76 and fall to into a tie with Weir at even-par 216.

What To Watch For

The weather will be similar to Saturday, with expectations for temperatures in the 60s, with the wind picking up in the afternoon. There will be more of the same from Tiger Woods, too. Six back of Trevor Immelman, expect Woods to put pressure on the leaders early. But the Immelman-Brandt Snedeker final pairing has to be a comfortable one for the twentysomethings. Immelman shot 69, Snedeker 70 while playing with each other today and rounds that low tomorrow will make it awfully hard for anyone to catch them. For example, if Immelman shoots 70, Woods will need a 64 to tie. If Trevor shoots a round in the 60s, Tiger would need a course-record-tying 63 to match the South African.