The Loop

WGC-CA Championship Third Round Finally Complete

March 23, 2008

MIAMI -- While it's true the only thing more boring than a weather delay at a golf tournament is a Pauly Shore film festival, there were, nonetheless, a few interesting developments before and after the deluge washed out play at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral Saturday. It's fascinating how every Spring the whiff of distant flowers at Augusta brings out the red numbers in golf's finest players as each attempts to firm up their games for the year's first major championship.

Everyone knows Augusta National is one of Tiger Woods' "happy places," as the CA Championship leader Geoff Ogilvy calls the courses where Woods so often dominates. The third-round threesome was among the players returning to finish  Easter Sunday morning with Ogilvy assuming a four-shot lead at 16 under par. But while Woods was busy wrestling the Aussie tag-team duo of Adam "Facebook" Scott and Geoff "The Flying Quote" Ogilvy, others were coming into shape, too.

Among the notable names was Vijay Singh, the 2000 Masters champion who finished in the top 10 there every year from '02 through '06. Earlier this year Singh couldn't keep his "new" swing under control and he lost the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in a playoff. This week, he changed from a standard-length putter back to the belly and led the group of five players at minus 12.

While Singh made the biggest move Saturday afternoon/Sunday morning with a nine-under 63, another familiar name from the last two Masters, Tim Clark, got to 11 under before he dropped a shot from a tough lie in the wet rough Sunday morning on the 16th. "I really struggled the start of the year," said Clark, who was runner-up to Phil Mickelson at Augusta in '05 and shared the halfway lead last year. "Last week I found my swing again and that felt great and that gave me confidence coming here and I just had to figure out what I was doing with the putting. I got that sorted this week. I'm looking forward to Augusta now. You don't want to be going there playing badly. Now that I feel like I'm playing well, you kind of get excited to go back and play."

Singh and Clark weren't the only ones cobbling something together in advance of Augusta. After a mediocre opening to his season, all of a sudden Jim Furyk was on the leader board with Singh at 12 under. Mike Weir, the '03 Masters champion, was five under in his third round. Retief Goosen, who finished second at Augusta last year, had his best showing of the season last week at Bay Hill and worked his way into the logjam at minus 12, too. The Masters defender, Zach Johnson, is a shot behind Clark.

There were two names missing from the list of usual suspects, however. The first was Ernie Els. The winner at the Honda Classic just three weeks ago was six over par for the tournament but suffering from the flu all week. "I'd like to put some good rounds together when I start feeling better," Els said. "Obviously, I've got the Houston tournament before the Masters."

Not part of the conversation was Colin Montgomerie, who came to the CA needing a high finish to earn an invitation back to Augusta. His opening rounds of 75 and 74 left him with the stunned and vacant look more often associated with people trying to change planes at Miami International.

-- Jim Moriarty