Here are the winners and losers of Saturday's third-round play at the 71st Masters, plus what to watch for on Sunday:
Hootie Johnson and Tom Fazio
Give it time, they said. Wait until we get a dry and fast week. Then we'll be able to take full measure of the Johnson-mandated and Fazio-supervised changes that were supposed to give the National teeth. Well, we got one. The top 10 players on the leaderboard made a combined five birdies on the back nine, and exactly one player shot a round under par on the day. Teeth, indeed. The brutal layout combined with wind and 50-degree temperatures to make it extremely difficult to come out with dignity intact.
If you enjoy watching the game's best perform at the highest level, golf was set back 50 years today. Actually, more like 80 -- the leading score after three rounds, 2-over, was the highest in the history of the tournament, and they've been playing golf in these parts since 1934. Second-round leader Tim Clark shot 80 and was still on the first page of the leaderboard. If you like watching players get embarrassed, it was probably a two-bags-of-chips day. Stuart Appleby said after his round that it was pure luck if you picked the right club for your approach shot. That's just what you want to hear at the pinnacle of the sport, right?
Since that randomness clearly seems to be the case, why not just have the guys shoot dice in the locker room for the trophy and save us the trouble of having to watch? Paper, rock, scissors, maybe. Tiger's probably good at that too, though.
Who didn't hemorrhage shots on his way to the clubhouse? Hell, it's easier just to insert names into the blanks: ________ struggled on the day, making _____ bogeys, _____ doubles and a triple. Brett Wetterich shot 83. Vijay Singh shot 79. Geoff Ogilvy shot 81. Paul Casey shot 77. There's almost no point in even singling anybody out for playing poorly. Stuart Appleby appeared as if he was going to be the last man standing, getting to 1-under on the day before a choose-your-own-adventure triple bogey on the 17th.
Moments later, Justin Rose three-putted from 20 feet to fall to 2-over as well. Vaughn Taylor got his turn at the top of the board, but made the least of it as well. After a birdie on 15 to take the outright lead, the Augustan three-putted 16, then bogeyed 17 and 18 to fall back. Tiger Woods has been trying to lose this tournament for three days, and nobody will let him do it. For the second day out of three, Woods bogeyed his final two holes of the day, this time squandering some good work earlier in the round to shoot 72. Despite that, he's -- believe it or not -- a shot out of the lead going into Sunday. Hey, if they insist on giving him another jacket, he'd be rude not to take it.
What to watch for on Sunday
The worst part about Appleby's triple was that it backed him into the final pairing with Tiger Woods tomorrow. The score says he's in the lead, but truth is something a little bit different. Woods is trying to win major No.
13, while Appleby has only his second realistic taste of major contention in 15 years as a professional. As annoyed as Woods has clearly been about his play over the first three days, he's set up for a match-play situation tomorrow. The reality of this ridiculous course setup is that nobody is going to shoot a low number and run away. U.S. Open-style mistake management will be the order of the day. We've seen Tiger beat fields to death that way -- last year's British Open was a prime example. As cool as it's been to see some great scoring rounds on Masters Sunday, we'll get no such treat tomorrow. If Appleby shoots 71 tomorrow, he's going to win. It's even simpler for Tiger. If he plays the front nine in even or 1-under, he'll be in control of the tournament, and we're still waiting for him to cough up a lead late in a major championship. It's literally never happened before.
Appleby will be wanting to see Woods visit the pine straw off the tee a few times early to feel like he has a chance.
Who else can give the top two guys a run? Padraig Harrington is two shots behind. Retief Goosen made the cut on the number, but recorded five birdies Saturday to shoot that lone under-par round and climb to four behind.
Goosen's final-round putting display at Shinnecock in 2004 showed he can thrive in apocalyptic conditions. Phil Mickelson is also four behind, at 6-over. His 73 was a relatively calm one, with three bogeys and two birdies.
Traditionally, players three or four behind could go out and take a few chances early, because birdies and eagles were there to be had. I'm not so sure that's the strategy this time, because it's so easy to make bogeys and doubles. It's also not supposed to warm up much. It's cold, and players' hands are cold. It's hard to feel confident over an approach shot or a delicate chip when it feels like your fingers are disconnected from your
Matt Rudy is a Golf Digest senior writer.