Many factors at play in Masters final day

Updated: April 10, 2006, 4:27 PM ET
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The hour or two of post-storm golf that the leaders squeezed in at the Masters Tournament on Saturday evening looked nothing like the first two days. The greens, softened by the afternoon deluge, proved as welcoming as a mother's hug. The first six golfers on the leaderboard when darkness suspended play each made at least two birdies in their abbreviated rounds, and only one of them played more than six holes.

Fortunately for those chasing him, leader Chad Campbell followed his birdie-birdie start with a bogey-bogey finish. Campbell, at 6 under through four holes, leads Tim Clark and Rocco Mediate by one stroke.

Phil Mickelson went Campbell one better, starting with three birdies to get to 5 under before he bogeyed the next two holes. He joins Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods at 3 under.

"Short-game shots are so much easier when the ball is grabbing and holding," said Woods, who played the front nine in 34. "Before it was skidding and repelling."

So when play resumes Sunday morning at 7:45 a.m., will the Masters continue to impersonate the FBR Open? Clark and Woods both talked about how they will have to make birdies in order to keep up. But there are a few things to consider.

First of all, the Augusta National Golf Club greens have a motorized drainage system beneath them.

"Augusta National's greens are never slow but were just a little sticky in spots," said Mediate, who, at 5 under through four holes, pulled within one stroke of Campbell. "Sub-Air [the drainage system] tonight will take all of that moisture out of there. It will still be a little softer but it won't be mushy."

Second, the course is playing longer. With the added length, two-time champion Ben Crenshaw, who stood tied for 10th through two rounds at 1 under, reverted to his form of the last few years. Crenshaw played eight holes in 5 over.

Third, there will be the grind of playing anywhere from 27 (Woods) to 32 (Campbell and Mediate) holes.

"It's going to be tough walking around that many times, but when you're in contention, you don't really think about that," Campbell said. "It's not like we have to run. That might be a different story. But mentally, it's tough. This is a very demanding golf course and on the greens you have stay very patient and take your chances when you get them."

Fourth, there will be the pressure of Masters Sunday. Twenty-two players remain within six shots of Campbell. Nine of them have won major championships.

"I have to do something real special the next [32] holes to win this golf tournament," Mediate said, "whereas some of the bigger guns have to play pretty much a nice, solid round of golf. I have to go above that. They have been there many more times. Phil is right there. He's close. Tiger is always close. As long as he's upright, he's close. So if those guys go out and play a good round of golf, it's going to be tough to beat them, even though I'm a few ahead of them."

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

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com