Tiger erases DiMarco's lead, goes up three


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods tied a Masters record with seven
straight birdies and surged past Chris DiMarco to take a
three-stroke lead into Sunday's final round at Augusta National.
The golfers were back on the course at 8 a.m. to complete the
weather-delayed third round, with DiMarco holding a four-shot lead
over Woods.
Within an hour, Woods was on top -- and in position for his
fourth green jacket. That would tie Arnold Palmer for second-most
victories in Masters history; only Jack Nicklaus, with six, has won
Woods shot 65 in the third round, one stroke better than the
second-round 66 that got him back in contention. He opened the
tournament with a 74.
"Not bad, huh?" Woods said, smiling. "It's been a while,
hasn't it? Most majors, you're not going to be making a whole bunch
of birdies. You're going to be making a bunch of pars."
Woods has played in 10 majors without a win; his last was the
2002 U.S. Open.
DiMarco double bogeyed his first hole of the day, No. 10, and
struggled to a 41 on the back side. He finished with a 74 after
shooting a pair of 67s to lead after each of the first two rounds.
Woods birdied the final three holes on the front nine Saturday
before darkness halted play. He kept it up the next day with four
more birdies in a row, capped by a 10-footer at the par-5 13th that
drew a defiant pump of his right fist and pushed his score 13
Woods tied the tournament record of seven straight birdies, set
by Steve Pate over the same string of holes in 1999.
"We've still got a long ways to go," Woods said. "The only
reason it was yielding birdies are the greens are soft and the pins
are in low spots. You could funnel the ball down to the hole."
Woods' birdie streak ended at the 14th, when his second shot
funneled to the far right side of the green with the flag on the
left. He needed three putts to get down, taking his first bogey of
the round.
DiMarco, playing one group behind, couldn't take advantage. He
also bogeyed 14 to stay two strokes behind.
Woods gave DiMarco another chance at the par-5 15th, hitting a
fat 6-iron to the edge of the water, his ball imbedded in the muddy
bank. He had to take a drop and wound up with bogey.
But DiMarco followed suit, leaving his ball in a similar spot
next to the water. He, too, wound up with bogey.
Woods parred out, while DiMarco dropped another stroke with a
bogey at 17.
Woods went to the final round with an 11-under 205, followed by
DiMarco (208) and Thomas Bjorn (209). Six shots off the pace were
defending champion Phil Mickelson and Trevor Immelman. Vijay Singh,
the world's top-ranked player, was joined by Mark Hensby at 212.
"I have to put together something really special if I'm going
to have a chance," Mickelson said. "There's a 65 out there. I
don't know if it'll be enough, but that's what I'm going to be
gunning for."
DiMarco's troubles began when his second shot at the 10th went
into a bush. He had to take a drop, chipped onto the green and
two-putted for the double bogey.
Before that, the only blemish on his card was a first-round
bogey on the very same hole, his first hole of the tournament. He
then went 44 holes with nothing but birdies and pars -- the second
longest streak without a bogey in Masters history.
DiMarco is a perennial contender at Augusta, leading five rounds
in five years. He played with Mickelson in the final group a year
ago, but faded to a 76.
He was paired in the final twosome again, this time with Woods
and clinging to a thread of hope.
"Look at Tiger," DiMarco said. "He even bogeyed a few coming
in. He could have birdied a couple of holes coming in and put
everyone out of their misery."
Woods was hitting his irons brilliantly, leaving himself plenty
of birdie chances. He also capitalized on a break with his final
shot Saturday.
After teeing off at No. 10, the horn sounded to end play for the
day. Woods could have finished the hole, but decided to quit when
he saw a big chunk of mud on his ball. That gave him the option of
marking the spot with a tee and picking up Sunday with a clean
"It was a no-brainer," he said. "It was a great break that
they blew the horn. ... When we saw that (mud) down there, it was
nice to know I could put the tee in the ground."
After finishing the third round, everyone got a short break
before playing the final 18 holes. There were no problems with the
weather, which plagued the first two days of the tournament.
It was sunny day, with temperatures expected to climb into the
upper 70s.