Woods on third-round 65: 'Not bad, huh?'

Updated: April 10, 2005, 12:25 PM ET
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The specter of Tiger Woods with a three-stroke lead and one round to play at the Masters Tournament revived a feeling that has lain dormant for three years: the utter lack of drama in the air in anticipation of the final round.

Tiger Woods
Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesWoods birdied seven consecutive holes in his third round.

Really, can we expect a Chris DiMarco or a Thomas Bjorn, who's four strokes back, to prevent Woods from winning his fourth green jacket? DiMarco surrendered a four-stroke lead in the time it takes to watch PTI, give or take a Kornheiser rant. Give us 22 minutes, and we'll give you the world? How about give DiMarco 22 minutes and he'll give you the lead.

Bjorn is the greatest player Denmark has ever produced, and may be as tortured as Hamlet. A year ago, he walked out of the Irish Open claiming he had "demons in his head."

Woods is on the cusp of his ninth major championship, his first in three years. The drama that golf produced as Woods rebuilt his swing, such as the Phil Mickelson-Ernie Els duel at Augusta National a year ago, is receding into the past.

The overnight storyline when darkness interrupted the third round -- could Woods overtake DiMarco? -- dried up before the morning dew did. Think Germany overtaking Poland, Michael Phelps in Lane 4 at the local YMCA swim meet.

It took Woods 22 minutes to catch DiMarco on Sunday morning, and another 10 or so to pass him. Woods birdied his first two holes, while DiMarco opened with a double-bogey at No. 10.

"I don't think Chris would've ever thought standing over his second shot at 11 that he'd be tied with Tiger," Bjorn said.

Woods birdied No. 12 and No. 13 as well. As he stood on the 14th tee, 13-under, Woods had strung up a record-tying seven consecutive birdies. He was 9 under for the round, and the course record of 63 appeared to be his for the taking.

Just as quickly, however, Woods faltered. He bogeyed the next two holes, and parred in for a 65 and a 54-hole total of 205. DiMarco, rather than seize the opportunity, began matching Woods shot for shot. He, too, bogeyed the 14th and 15th holes and threw in another at the 17th. That's a back-nine 41, a third-round 74, and a three-shot deficit to Woods.

DiMarco's assessment: "I really can't think of a poorly struck shot, and I shot 41. ... You had to expect it. There were 27 holes left. Anything can happen in 27 holes. Anything can happen in nine holes."

Woods' assessment: "Not bad, huh?"

His 205 matches his score after three rounds the last time he won at Augusta, in 2002, back when Woods' kingdom stretched, as Mufasa said, as far as the eye could see.

Three years later, a new swing has eliminated the old certainty. Woods is still capable of the stray hole or two. He had a day full of them on Thursday, when he played 12 holes in 2 over, and he leaked some oil getting the third round finished Sunday morning.

Woods is sniffling. The pollen is out in force. Judging by the golf Sunday morning, the pollen may be his toughest opponent.

"I started well today," Woods said. "I kept it going. I'm in position. ... Most majors, you're going to make a bunch of birdies. Most majors are a bunch of pars. The greens are soft and receptive."

Ho hum. Tiger's ahead.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Ivan.Maisel@espn3.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com