Saturday, April 12
Notes: Anything but Easy
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Ernie Els has built a career making the
impossible seem possible.
That can be good and bad.
The good? At No. 7 in the third round of The Masters on
Saturday, he flew a 9-iron onto the green and rolling, rolling,
rolling -- right into the hole for eagle.
The bad? He hit a beautiful approach on No. 14 that landed
inches away from the cup, then inexplicably spun backward -- uphill
all the way off the heavily contoured green.
''I got robbed there,'' Els said. ''To me, it was almost
impossible that could happen.''
The bad luck on 14 resulted in the first of two straight bogeys,
and when his even-par round was over, Els was thinking more about
the disaster there than the eagle on 7.
The Big Easy finished at 1 over, six strokes behind Jeff
Maggert. Considered Tiger Woods' most legitimate challenge at The
Masters, Els' chances for a fourth major are in deep trouble.
''I guess when I calm down and really think about today, I'd
like to think there's still a chance,'' Els said. ''But it's an
Mickelson's strange day
He made bogeys out of the trees and
birdies with his power and skill, then salvaged his day with a par
putt that hung on the back side of the cup before falling on the
If fans wanted thrills, they knew exactly who to watch: Phil
The show could get even better Sunday.
''I'm in striking distance,'' Mickelson proclaimed, after a
wacky round of even-par left him at 1 under, tied with Tiger Woods
and only four strokes off the lead.
The Best Player to Never Win a Major was barely a blip on the
radar this week -- he took nearly a month off to tend to his wife,
who recently had a baby.
But he says his swing feels fine, and his game is rounding into
With Mickelson, that means adventure is always close at hand.
''I hit some poor shots, some good ones,'' Mickelson said. ''I
hit some unsolid shots that led to some birdies and some solid
shots that led to bogeys.''
Langer goes home
While Tiger Woods was still in contention for
a third straight Masters title, another streak came to an end at
Bernhard Langer failed to make the cut for the first time since
his Masters debut in 1982. The German returned in 1984 and cleared
the 36-hole barrier 19 times in a row, the longest active streak in
Langer missed the cut by a whopping six strokes after shooting
rounds of 79 and 76, leaving him 11-over par. He fell short of the
Masters record, 23 consecutive cuts made by Gary Player from
Also going home: John Huston, who had made the cut at Augusta 12
times in a row dating to 1990.
Fred Couples now has the longest active streak, stretching his
run to 19 in a row when he made the cut with one stroke to spare.
It wasn't any old quadruple bogey for Darren
Most players who implode on the par-5 13th hole do it by hitting
ball after ball into Rae's Creek. Clarke only hit one in there.
He yanked his tee shot into the woods, chipped out for his
second, and hit his third into the water. After a drop, he hit his
fifth shot through the green, then took four strokes to get down
for a round-ruining 9.
It was the low point of his round of 78, a score that took him
from the lead after Friday's play was called by darkness to a tie
''There are momentum swings out there for everybody,'' Clarke
said. ''Augusta doesn't give you anything.''
David Duval is struggling worse than he ever has in
his career, but he can't be accused of packing it in.
After finishing off an 83 on Saturday -- his worse score ever at
The Masters -- Duval headed to the practice range and hit balls for
about an hour before cleaning out his locker and heading home.
Duval declined comment when asked about his two rounds.
He finished at 18-over 162 and in some strange company -- tied
with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, only four strokes better than
Leizl Els continued a tradition of her own. For the
last several years, she diagrams every hole at major championships
and charts each shot struck by her husband, Ernie Els, and whoever
else is in the Big Easy's group. ... Vijay Singh went 28
consecutive holes without a bogey until making one on the 11th hole
in the the third round. ... Craig Stadler started in a tie for last
and finished in last all alone. He shot 79 and wound up at 228, two
strokes behind Kenny Perry and Pat Perez. ... Mickelson has a new
mark on his golf ball this week -- the name of his son, Evan Samuel
Mickelson, is stamped on the side.