Commentary

Masters Live Blog: Round 3

Originally Published: April 12, 2008
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

Throughout this week, ESPN.com golf editor Jason Sobel will be live blogging from the Masters, bringing you inside information and analysis from Augusta National Golf Club. Refresh this page often to keep track of all the entries during each round.

Have a question or comment for Sobel? E-mail him at mastersblog@gmail.com.

Round 2 blog
Round 1 blog
Par 3 blog

7:40 p.m.: Great third round of the Masters today. Will Trevor Immelman hold on for the wire-to-wire victory? Will Brandt Snedeker become the next young American champion? Will Steve Flesch make it 4-for-6 for the lefties? Or will someone come from further back in the pack?

I'll be live blogging right here all day tomorrow throughout the final round, beginning at 2 p.m. See you then …

7:37 p.m.: Augusta National's 18th hole isn't easy … but Immelman and Snedeker sure made it look that way. A pair of birdies from both players in the final pairing, so they'll be playing together again tomorrow.

Immelman goes into the final round at 11-under, a two-stroke lead over Snedeker, with Steve Flesch three back and Paul Casey four.

7:34 p.m.: E-mail from Kevin in Columbus, Ohio:

    Is Tiger worried about the 5-6 stroke deficit or happy that none of the golfers ahead of him have won a major?

He didn't address it after the round, but I can pretty confidently say that Tiger would rather be trailing, say, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh by two than Trevor Immelman by five or six. That's a pretty large deficit to overcome.

Here was Woods after his round:

    Q: You spent your entire career wanting to chase Jack Nicklaus, tomorrow you face a deficit that will be exactly the deficit Jack faced in '86. How rewarding would it be to be able to finally do that on the last day of a major?
    A: I got a lot of work to do tomorrow. Obviously with the conditions are supposed to be pretty blustery tomorrow and a little cooler. And again, you got to hang in there and be patient out there because it doesn't take much to make a high number out here.

7:32 p.m.: Ridiculously good approach shot by Brandt Snedeker to about 10 feet on 18. Immelman follows with an even better one to about three feet!

He doesn't have much more than the length of his putter, if that, to shoot a third straight round in the 60s.

7:26 p.m.: Steve Flesch makes par on the final hole to shoot 69. He's at 8-under, along with Brandt Snedeker. But since Flesch finished first, if Snedeker doesn't make a birdie here at 18, Flesch will be in tomorrow's final pairing with Immelman.

7:24 p.m.: E-mail from Bill in Lantana, Fla.:

    If you count Immelman as a possible wire-to-wire leader, then Seve Ballesteros in 1980 must be included, too. Both players were tied at the end of 18 holes -- Immelman with Justin Rose, Seve with David Graham and Jeff Mitchell. Ballesteros had the solo lead for Rounds 2, 3, and 4, of course.

The official Masters media guide doesn't list Seve as a wire-to-wire winner, but I'm giving it to him. Immelman could be No. 6.

7:17 p.m.: Great observation from Ted in Parts Unknown:

    Barring a nearly impossible finish, it looks like Boo Weekley is going to have a share of the low score of the day, and thus get himself a nice new vase. What do you think he puts in there? Driving range balls? Loose change? Budweiser?

No idea. He likes hunting. Maybe he'll just use it to prop up some fresh kill?

I can say one thing: There's absolutely no way Boo knows he won a vase for having the low round of the day.

Here's a little Q&A with Boo after today's round:

    Q: What did you do during the delay?
    A: Nothing, just sat over there on No. 6 or right behind No. 5 green there. They've got a bathroom there, and we sat right there and went and got some crackers and some water.

A bathroom? Hey, you didn't happen to run into … ah, forget it. Moving on …

    Q: Did you guys talk about anything?
    A: No, I sat out in the rain with an umbrella.

Just another spoiled professional golfer, huh?

7:13 p.m.: Just wondering … when was the last time a major championship contender was interviewed by his swing coach for the telecast?

7:10 p.m.: E-mail from Brian in Philadelphia:

    You jinx Phil, and ruin the Tiger-Phil pairing, but you can't seem to successfully jinx Immelman, which would bring the lead down and make the whole tournament more interesting.

The blog jinx works in mysterious ways. But yeah, that Tiger-Phil pairing I was touting for about three minutes? Not gonna happen, thanks to Mickelson's double on 16.

7:05 p.m.: E-mail from my friend Anthony in Australia:

    When was the last wire-to-wire victory at the Masters? Is it too early to start talking about Immelman's chances?

It hasn't happened since 1976, when Raymond Floyd pulled it off. The other three to do it were Jack Nicklaus ('72), Arnold Palmer ('60) and Craig Wood ('41).

And no, it's not too early. But going to bed with a major championship lead is a daunting prospect, especially for a young player. Doing that for three straight nights is even tougher.

7:03 p.m.: That round in the 60s is still a possibility, as Immelman makes a great par save to remain 2-under for the round and 10-under for the tournament.

7:01 p.m.: E-mail from on-course spy Lanier, who must have found a media guide in one of those porta-potties:

    No player has ever shot four rounds in the 60s at the Masters.

Trevor Immelman opened 68-68 and is 2-under through Round 3. If he can make a birdie coming in, he has a chance to be the first one.

Then again, so does Brandt Snedeker, who opened 69-68 and with a birdie at 15 is now 1-under for the day.

6:58 p.m.: Trevor Immelman hits to 15 … and it's coming back … back … back … and it stops short of the water hazard! Shades of Fred Couples at No. 12 in 1992. What a great break for him.

6:51 p.m.: E-mail from Phil in Syracuse:

    Not that he needs extra motivation, but if Tiger is paired with Phil tomorrow, how do you think that will affect him?

Well, by "him," I'm not sure whether you mean Tiger or Phil, but I don't think it matters one bit for either one. I know everyone out there thinks players are affected by which golfers they're playing with and who is on the leaderboard, but it just doesn't work like that. I think Woods will shoot the same score paired with Mickelson as he would paired with Paul Casey or Stewart Cink, and I think Mickelson will shoot the same score paired with Woods as he would paired with Trevor Immelman or Paul Casey.

Obviously, there's no way to back this up, so it's all subjective, but I'm pretty sure each of those players would say the same exact thing.

6:47 p.m.: Phil Mickelson misses a short birdie putt at 15 and remains at 4-under. Still looking good for a Woods/Mickelson final-round pairing, though. If everyone remains right where they are on the leaderboard, they will play together in the third-to-last group tomorrow.

And no, I don't believe they've ever played together in the final round of a major championship.

6:44 p.m.: Brandt Snedeker with a major bounce-back at No. 14. Makes birdie to get back to 7-under, with the par-5 15th coming up.

Meanwhile, Immelman drains a left-to-right slider and goes to 10-under. Simply unflappable.

6:42 p.m.: E-mail from Dave in Madison, Wis.:

    Luckily, you didn't post any of my hilarious comments yesterday. Otherwise, I would have suffered from the blog jinx and the hot girl last night would have said no.

Bad news, Dave. I just posted this one. And your phone is about to ring. It's her. And she's got, uh, something she meant to tell you about beforehand …

6:34 p.m.: Trevor Immelman birdies the 13th to move to 9-under, giving him a two-stroke lead. Immelman had carded seven pars and just one birdie on the par-5 holes entering today, but he's 2-for-3 in the third round.

6:32 p.m.: BLOG JINX!

Good work, Rob. See, you mention Steve Flesch … and he bogeys No. 14. Care to stop talking about him now?

6:31 p.m.: E-mail from Rob in Parts Unknown (though not the Rob in Parts Unknown from the 6:19 entry):

    Why isn't anyone talking about Steve Flesch?

Umm … because they don't want to give him the blog jinx?

6:28 p.m.: E-mail from my buddy Brian in South Carolina:

    I think Snedeker realized he was the sole leader at Augusta. Had nothing to do with the blog jinx.

Hey, careful what you say about the jinx. Don't give it any reason to apply to non-golfers, too.

6:25 p.m.: Brandt Snedeker is in the creek on 13! Should've audibled out of that shot, eh, Peyton?

6:24 p.m.: One more quick Tiger note. Our prop bet from earlier? Well, Tiger shot four strokes under par today and there are now three names between him and the one on the top of the leaderboard (with two others tied for the lead, of course).

6:19 p.m.: E-mail from Rob in Parts Unknown:

    What do you think Tiger Woods will have to shoot tomorrow to win? Will another 68 do it or will he have to be around 66?

As I just told Steve Bunin (name-dropper!) on ESPNEWS, if Tiger Woods puts together the exact same round tomorrow (68), he wins. Might not even be a playoff.

And yes, that means I think Casey, Flesch and Immelman -- all at 8-under -- will not play the final 21-23 holes in under par. Of course, the wind is supposed to be gusting to 20-25 mph tomorrow, so a 68 might look like what a 66 would have looked like in the first three rounds (if we had actually seen one).

6:15 p.m.: BLOG JINX!

What, like you thought I forgot? Snedeker bogeys 11 and 12 to fall to 7-under.

Meanwhile, Paul Casey -- tied for the lead with Trevor Immelman -- just hit one awry off the 15th tee.

There's no way Tiger Woods is going to find himself in the final pairing tomorrow … um, right?

6:09 p.m.: E-mail from Peyton Manning in Indianapolis:

    Snedeker ain't backing up. I don't care what any of you say. We Tennesseans NEVER choke when we play in Georgia.

Hmmm … I thought that was Florida? Guess we should keep a close eye on Snedeker at the Players Championship, too.

(By the way, it took Peyton an hour-and-a-half to write that e-mail. He kept starting it, then would audible to another subject.)

6:05 p.m.: E-mail from Steve in Cincinnati:

    Tiger is the leader in the clubhouse so far. Does the "intimidation factor" now come into play? Once these players see "WOODS -5" in red, will they start thinking just a little more?

Hey, maybe I'm wrong here, but I honestly don't think so. Now, that isn't to say they won't falter down the stretch and make some mistakes, but I really, really don't think it has anything to do with Woods; rather, it's their own name that proves to be an "intimidation factor." Believe me, players' nerves will be jangling more when they see their name on that leaderboard than that of Woods.

5:55 p.m.: Gotta do an ESPNEWS interview. Back in a few …

5:54 p.m.: Tiger Woods two-putts for par to complete a bogey-free round of 68.

5:49 p.m.: Tiger Woods blasts an 8-iron over the trees -- his lie was better than our on-course correspondent believed -- and onto the front of the 18th green. Will have a long birdie putt, but it could have been much, much worse.

5:47 p.m.: E-mail from Aaron in Toledo, Ohio:

    What is the amateur rule? Is any player who has already qualified for the tournament allowed to come play a practice round whenever they want to?

Actually, even though Snedeker said "amateur rule," I believe that any players already qualified for the Masters may play unlimited practice rounds here before the tournament, as long as they are with a club member.

5:43 p.m.: And Woods follows the birdie by … pushing his tee shot on 18 into the trees for the second straight day. He'd take par and run, if he could.

Leads to this lightning-quick spy report from my man Lanier on the course:

    Just came out of the bathroom near phone booths on 18 and almost got hit by Tiger's tee shot. Another broken 4 iron forthcoming looking at his lie?

Hmmm … very possible.

5:39 p.m.: Tiger Woods birdies No. 17. Moves to 5-under. Within four of the lead.

Think he packed a red shirt?

5:37 p.m.: What a stupid I am. From Pat in Gainesville, Fla.:

    Your maths are challenged again. Romero started the day at even, had five birdies and one bogey before butchering 16. Never did he get to 7-under.

As I wrote yesterday, you can pretty much ignore any numbers in this blog. They're probably wrong.

Anyway, the De Vicenzo quote got me to thinking how resounding a victory by Romero would be in his native Argentina, which is where the 1968 runner-up is from, too. Of course, that will be a little tougher after the double-bogey he just took on 16.

5:33 p.m.: Retief Goosen started at 2-under, made two birdies to move to 4-under, made two bogeys to fall to 2-under again and now has eagled No. 13 to move back to 4-under.

5:27 p.m.: Brandt Snedeker goes out in 34, with birdies on each of the par-5s. He's the leader, and though Augusta National doesn't often yield inexperienced Masters champions, he has logged plenty of hours on this course. From his Thursday post-round news conference:

    Q: This is your fifth round here. Is this enough for you to actually believe?
    A: It's my fifth round competitively, but I've played down here probably 60 or 70 times. I thought they were going to change the amateur rule in '04 because I came down probably every weekend for about three or four months. I think the members got tired of seeing me down here. I've been back a bunch of times after the Masters. This year, I came back three or four times trying to get familiar with the golf course so I don't feel out of my element when I'm out here playing in a major championship. I've played here a bunch and feel comfortable on the golf course.

Seriously, though, wouldn't you do the same thing? If you were in college, already qualified for the Masters (via his win at the PubLinks), not living too far away, wouldn't you come here to play every single weekend? For that matter, would you ever leave?

5:19 p.m.: Speaking of players who can go low, Andres Romero has carded five birdies today -- still five fewer than his final round at Carnoustie -- to move to 7-under [Editor's note: But see 5:37 p.m.], but just pushed his tee shot on 16 into the right bunker.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods counters with a shot that lands about eight feet short, then hits the slope and rolls back some 65 feet to the front of the green.

5:06 p.m.: Heading into today's round, there were plenty of people -- including GolfWorld's Ron Sirak, who believed that Tiger Woods was only four shots off the lead, not seven. How so? Because they looked at Phil Mickelson as the real tourney leader, the highest-ranked player on the leaderboard with a major championship to his name.

Well, with Philly Mick's bogey at No. 8, he and Woods are now tied for the "lead" (if you believe those folks) at 4-under -- four shots behind the real lead.

5:01 p.m.: Paul Casey makes birdie at No. 9 to move to 8-under, tied for the lead with Brandt Snedeker.

My earlier post about Casey's propensity to go low inspired this e-mail from Dave in Garfield Heights, Ohio:

    Don't all tour pros generally like to go low? I've never heard of one that prefers to go high.

Funny. But seriously, there are guys who make birdies in bunches and have a tendency to shoot really good scores when they're hot and others who tend to be more consistent players, finding themselves in contention more often when the score is closer to par.

Just as an example, here's an excerpt from a recent Hot Seat interview I did with Tim Clark:

    Q: What is about the majors that makes you such a strong contender?
    A: I think that, first of all, I get really excited to play in the majors. A lot of players get intimidated by the majors; I just get really excited to get there and I feel like it brings the best out of my game. When you get to majors, it comes down to hitting fairways and greens, and that's something I've always been able to do. Over the last few years, I've improved my putting and my short game. So if you're actually hitting fairways and making crucial par putts -- which is what it turns out to be at majors; you try to make a lot of par saves -- I'm able to do that and I enjoy playing par golf. I don't always like going to courses where 20-under wins the tournament. I enjoy the challenge of even-par golf, and that's what I find the majors being.

4:54 p.m.: Interesting note from Zach Johnson, who's in the clubhouse with a 4-under 68, during his Butler Cabin interview with Jim Nantz. He said that balls were "hydroplaning" after hitting the fairway, rather than plugging without any roll.

Don't get it? Here's an experiment: Hose down the street in front of your house, then step back a few hundred yards, tee one up and let 'er rip. Though the street is a little firmer than Augusta National's fairways, you'll notice how the ball hits and spins right off that water. Uh, unless you don't hit it straight. Then it might plug. Somewhere.

4:50 p.m.: E-mail from Ryan in Kansas, regrettably (his word, not mine):

    So, is it fair to say that Tiger should have had three more birdies than he does in this round? Are missing these putts going to come back to haunt him tomorrow?

Well, sort of, but every player at every tournament has putts that he'd like to have over again. Anyone who isn't wearing the green jacket in, oh, 27 hours or so will be kicking himself for the next few weeks for missing some putts.

4:46 p.m.: Snedeker and Immelman each par No. 6 … but here comes Tiger Woods, with a birdie on 13 to move to 4-under. He's methodically working his way up the leaderboard and will absolutely be in the mix going into tomorrow.

As for our prop bet? Woods is now 3-under for the day and there are five players between him and the leader.

4:42 p.m.: E-mail from Kevin in Washington:

    Did Tripp Kuehne win low amateur? If he did and Tiger wins, will the ceremony in Butler Cabin be the first time they have been in the same room since the U.S. Amateur at Sawgrass?

Well, yes and no. While Kuehne (6-over) beat the other amateurs, Michael Thompson and Drew Weaver, on the leaderboard, low amateur isn't awarded when nobody makes the cut. As for that U.S. Amateur match, Kuehne said the other day that he has never watched tape of it and never intends to.

4:38 p.m.: Quick leaderboard check: Brandt Snedeker (8-under) leads by one over Paul Casey, Steve Flesch and Trevor Immelman, with Ian Poulter and Phil Mickelson one stroke further back.

And the margin could grow wider soon. Snedeker just fired his tee shot to within 12 feet at No. 6.

4:29 p.m.: Paul Casey makes birdie at No. 7 -- his third birdie of the day. As mentioned on the telecast, he likes going low.

I don't remember where I heard this story and, quite frankly, it may not be true, but I'll share anyway, because I'm sure there's some part of the truth in it, at least: When Casey was a younger player -- both as an amateur and in his early years as a pro -- he would play new courses with the idea of breaking the course record. If he got through, say, six holes without a birdie, he'd just head back to No. 1 and start over again, sort of like hitting the "reset" button on a video game.

Honestly, I'm not sure what this says about him. Sure, he isn't afraid to go low, but when things aren't going his way on the course, does he have the inner resolve to turn it around and minimize the damage?

4:23 p.m.: Oooh, I started some sort of Ivy League nerd war! From Scott in New York City:

    I iz in the Columbia Law School library, reeding ur blog. Iz Tiger Woods perforance still doin good?

Hee-hee.

Kidding, Ivy folks, just kidding. You're responsible for about 50 percent of all legible e-mails to this blog, so please don't leave.

Oh, and Tiger just mist hiz berdee putt on da 12th, makes da par insted.

4:13 p.m.: I know this doesn't really have anything to do with what's going on in the tournament right now (unless you want to tie in Tiger Woods, which makes sense), but Ian O'Connor had this passage in his recently released book, "Arnie & Jack: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Golf's Greatest Rivalry," (which I haven't read yet, but Ian tells me is a fantastic read) and it's a very telling statement:

    So with the civil rights movement exploding around their primes, Palmer and Nicklaus let pass an opportunity to expedite change in their separate-but-unequal sport.

    "A lot of people looked up to them," Lee Elder said. "People pretty much looked and followed their pattern. And I think had they been a little more outspoken in the way of saying, 'Hey, we're going to have to do something to maybe change the situation for the minority player,' it would've [helped] …. Their voice was something that I think almost every sponsor and every tournament director would have listened to."

    Like Sifford, Elder said Palmer and Nicklaus were a pleasure to play with. He said both men were courteous enough to stay on the greens when they were done putting so the swelling crowds wouldn't move and distract him. He said Palmer was good enough to give him a few rides to tournaments.

    But Elder was often mistaken for a caddie when he'd show up at those tournaments. The culture of professional golf encouraged such assumptions, and that was a culture Elder wished Palmer and Nicklaus were more willing to attack.

    "They never voiced their opinion about it," Elder said. "If they had voiced their opinion a little more, they were right in that era where it could've made a big change … With them being the name superstars, I can pretty much see it, because when you're a top player or you're the number one, you don't want to set yourself to doing something. But if you want it to happen and you want to help somebody, then you show your true colors.

    "[Golf officials] want the general public to think that they have been really great guys, have been the champions of the causes and they have helped out. And they really haven't."

Wow.

4:05 p.m.: Spy report from the course, which was also mentioned by Nick Faldo on the telecast:

    Tiger is beginning to look a bit more confident and his name is now on the leaderboard.

Earlier today I declared shenanigans on the whole "intimidation factor" theory. Time to see if my declaration of shenanigans is just.

3:59 p.m.: E-mail from Adam in Boston:

    I'm in the Harvard medical library studying immunology, but I would rather be watching my favorite athlete, Tiger Woods, on TV. Please keep us up to date on Woods' performace. Thanks.

Hmmm … a few different ways I can go with this one …

1. Sure, Adam. I'll keep you in the loop and let you know what he's doing out there. Good luck with your studying.
2. Hey, everybody look at the Harvard guy -- he spelled "performance" wrong!!! Haha! Good luck with your studying, Harvard guy!

I think I'll take the high road. Birdie for Woods on No. 10; he's now at 3-under for the tournament, five shots in back of the lead.

What a "performace" so far! (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

3:57 p.m.: Brandt Snedeker makes birdie on No. 2, but Trevor Immelman misses a short birdie putt to fall into a tie for the lead at 8-under. Of the top-10 on the leaderboard, only Immelman, Poulter and Goosen failed to make a birdie on the second hole.

3:51 p.m.: E-mail from C.J. in Minnesota:

    Let's say Ian Poulter has a shot to win tomorrow -- does he dress to match a green jacket, or do we end up with a jacket ceremony that makes plaid slacks look muted?

I think he may have something special in store. Remember, this is a guy who once played the British Open with a replica of the Claret Jug on his pants. (That's on, not in.)

So, how about Poulter coming out tomorrow in slacks with a big print of the green jacket on them? And then when he wins, he'll be wearing the green jacket on his shoulders … and his pants! Seriously, I wouldn't put it past him.

3:48 p.m.: As if Zach Johnson's 11-under total on the par-5s last year wasn't enough to prove that you don't have to be a big hitter to take advantage of the longer holes, now there's Steve Flesch, who currently ranks 146th on the PGA Tour with an average driving distance of 276.4 yards. And yet, in his last five par-5 holes -- all four yesterday and one so far today -- Flesch is 6-under.

3:45 p.m.: Retief Goosen follows a birdie on 3 with one more on 5 and he's at 4-under. Meanwhile, Steve Flesch and Phil Mickelson have each made birdie to move to 6-under and Paul Casey has made one to get to 5-under.

3:41 p.m.: E-mail from Brian in Duluth, Minn.:

    The post about Stewart Cink made me wonder: With unimpressive closing stats like that, why is it that the media tends to make such a big deal out of Tiger never coming from behind on a Sunday in a major? Is it just nitpicking? Do they forget that he has won 20-25 percent of the majors he has played in, which means that he has been the leader after three rounds on average once a year in majors?

I was actually making this very argument in a conversation with my fellow golf writing housemates earlier today. Just because Woods hasn't won in come-from-behind fashion at a major doesn't mean he can't or won't. It's just that because Woods has already accomplished so much, there tends to be more focus on what he hasn't accomplished in his career -- and coming from behind to win is one of the few things.

3:39 p.m.: Immelman and Snedeker both make par on No. 1. So much for "Pulling a Baddeley." (He tripled the first at last year's Open.)

3:24 p.m.: E-mail from Brad in Pittsburgh:

    Stewart Cink has to be at the top of the list as "one of the best players never to win a major." Do you think if he stays close today that he can put the pressure aside and win a green jacket?

Well, first of all, I wouldn't put Cink at the top of that list. He's among the top-10, certainly, but somewhere behind Adam Scott, K.J. Choi, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Steve Stricker, if you're just basing it solely on individual talent and achievement.

Can he close on a Sunday? I'd be surprised. Cink has led or been tied for the lead nine times entering the final round in his career and has won on only one of those occasions. Overall, he owns just three victories. For him to all of a sudden become a clutch player down the stretch on Sunday at Augusta National would go against everything we've learned about him over the years, though it's certainly within the realm of possibility.

3:20 p.m.: Nick Dougherty and Sean O'Hair have each moved from 1-under before the start of play to 3-under right now. Just serves as further evidence that this thing is wide open. There are absolutely, positively going to be players that we weren't talking about after Round 2 who are among the favorites to win after Round 3. Happens at every single major championship.

3:12 p.m.: Rounds of the day so far? Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Boo Weekley, who are each 3-under.

Here's what Boo had to say in his Augusta Chronicle blog today:

    I'm just figuring out [the course] as I go. So far, I've figured out these greens are fast.

    I just struggled a little bit with the putter -- the line, the speed. You have to be careful out here. Really.

    I played last year at Oakmont. I don't know if y'all were there, but woo. They were pretty rough, too. You had to know where you were going with it. You had to find where the grain is. If you find where the grain is, then you got it.

Looks like Boo has found the grain today. Woo.

3:07 p.m.: E-mail from Joe in Parts Unknown (which in this case is probably a good thing), who sort of comments on Ernie Els:

    My high school girlfriend used to be nicknamed the "Big Easy." Needless to say, she didn't make the cut, either.

Ummm …

3:03 p.m.: Because of the delay, the leaders still haven't teed off. I've talked about Brandt Snedeker a bit, but here's an interesting e-mail from Jeremy, who played college golf at North Carolina:

    Something to watch today: I've known Brandt a long time and played a good bit with him in college, etc. He loves chasing the lead, but it's a lot tougher for him to protect a lead or a good round. He only knows one way and one speed. Great player and a better guy.

Jeremy also goes on to cite Snedeker's 61 at Torrey Pines last year as evidence of his "one speed," but a final-hole three-putt (when leading by two) in the third round of this year's PODS Championship as evidence of his failure to protect a lead.

Given that, perhaps Snedeker is more comfortable beginning the day one stroke behind Immelman rather than one stroke ahead of him.

2:56 p.m.: Tiger Woods somehow misses a birdie putt on No. 5, as it looked like it rolled directly over the top of the cup. (He did knock in the come-backer for par.)

That leads to this e-mail from T.J. in Rhode Island:

    I know it's still very early in the third round, but I'd like to take a look ahead to the final round. In your eyes, which of the following players would make the most compelling playing partner for Tiger (assuming they're all near the top of the leaderboard) on Sunday: Phil Mickelson, Stephen Ames, or Ian Poulter?

We've been there, done that with the Stephen Ames thing. Poor guy made one comment about Woods on the driving range at La Costa more than two years ago; the statute of limitations is over on that "rivalry." Poulter would be fun, but really, his comments were more of an attack on every other player in the world, not Tiger. In fact, Woods thought it was pretty funny and has now taken to referring to Poulter as "No. 2."

That leaves Mickelson. Seems like we've been waiting a full decade for the two of them to be paired up in the final round of a major. Might be even more exciting if it's not the final pairing, but they instead each start the day two or three shots off the pace. Good luck getting a clear spot in that gallery for that one.

2:45 p.m.: E-mail from Andrew in Virginia:

    Would you like to make a bet on which player, Immelman or Snedeker, gets Aaron Baddeley-ed first (see U.S. Open final-round performance)?

Tough to predict someone to shoot 80. I don't think either will play badly, but I don't think either will win. (For the record, if you made me pick a winner based on the scoreboard entering today, I'd go with Retief Goosen, who has fared well here in tough weekend conditions before.) That said, both Immelman and Snedeker have played brilliant golf over the first two days. I'm just not sure either one can keep up the same level for 36 more holes. There's something to be said about not peaking too early in major championships, and I'm afraid each of them may have done just that.

2:37 p.m.: Just got an e-mail from my friend Daniel Wexler, who runs a great golf blog of his own, relaying a story about an almost-Masters champ:

    Remember about 12 years ago when [Scott Hoch] got paired with Presidents Ford, Bush and Clinton at the Hope? About two weeks later at the Nissan, he's sitting near my desk changing his shoes (why he was doing so in the lobby, I can't recall) so I wander over, exchange some brief small talk, then ask:

    "So what's it like playing golf with three presidents?"

    He looks up and with a completely straight face says: "Slow."

    End of conversation.

    To this day, I have no clue if he was joking …

Hoch will be telling that tale in the Runner-Up Room and at the Runner-Up Dinner for years to come.

2:30 p.m.: E-mail from our not-so-secret porta-potty spy Lanier, who's apparently made the cut and will be sticking around for the weekend:

    Tiger is one shot from getting on the big leaderboards around here. Think that won't make some of the leaders take notice?

I still think the so-called "intimidation factor" is blown way out of proportion. When players are out on the course, grinding over a 6-footer for par, the last thing they're thinking is, "I wonder how Tiger is playing right now." He's good. They get it. But if Woods is on the sixth hole and, say, Brandt Snedeker is on No. 3, do you think the latter is "intimidated"? I'm not buying it.

Oh, and one more bit of good news from Lanier:

    Rain is making me run to restroom more today. Plus, I'm back to drinking beer (not driving)!

When the e-mails start becoming incoherent, well, I'll probably keep posting 'em, just for fun. Oh, and Lanier? Don't drop your phone in there.

2:28 p.m.: Woods makes birdie on No. 2. Now six shots off the lead. I promise we'll talk about other players today, but you know everyone's keeping their eye on him.

2:24 p.m.: E-mail from Pat in East Lansing, Mich., with our first for-entertainment-purposes-only prop bet of the day:

    Which will be greater: Tiger's strokes under par today, or the number of people between him and the lead at the end of the day?

Tricky one. Entering the day, there were 11 players between Immelman and Woods, which means he would have to shoot a 12-under 60 to win the bet. But if Woods shot a 12-under 60, well, there wouldn't be 11 players between him and the lead.

I'm going to say Woods shoots a 3-under 69 today, but it won't be good enough to win the bet as there will be four players between him and the leader(s). Thoughts?

2:22 p.m.: File this one under Things Monty is Still Peeved About: Augusta National invited three international players to compete in this year's Masters. Wen-chong Liang missed the cut, Prayad Marksaeng (back injury) withdrew and Jeev Milkha Singh shot 71-74 to make the cut and is currently nine shots off the lead.

All of which leads to this conclusion: Milkha wasn't a bad choice.

2:16 p.m.: E-mail from Mike in Parts Unknown:

    I think 68 would be a good number. Given the conditions, it's not only well within is reach, but could also move him toward the top of the leaderboard considering the likelihood for guys like Immelman and Snedeker to fall back.

I think 68 would be a great number. So far, 29 players have completed at least one hole and only five are under par for the day, led by defending champ Zach Johnson, who is 3-under after seven holes. I'd have to think that the rain would make this course play extremely long, favoring the big hitters, but Zach hardly falls into that category and he's getting it done right now, moving from T-29 at the start to T-13.

2:06 p.m.: Only one way to start the day. There's one question everyone is asking, so let's just get on with it …

E-mail from Lots Of People in Parts All Over The Place:
    So, Tiger Woods is out of this thing. Uh, right?

Uh, wrong. I know seven shots is a large deficit, I know there hasn't been a player who has won after being outside the top-10 since Jack Nicklaus in 1986, I know Tiger has never come from behind on a Sunday to win a major. But this is hardly an insurmountable lead. And with several guys at the top (Trevor Immelman, Brandt Snedeker, etc.) without much experience in this position, he's very much in it.

Now, before you go accusing me of giving Woods the benefit of the doubt, let me say this, too: I also think Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk or, heck, even Robert Karlsson -- each of whom also started the day at 1-under -- is still in it, too.

Remember, last year Retief Goosen made the cut on the number, then shot 70-69 to finish T-2. The midway point of a major championship is too early to start eliminating players -- well, the ones still playing, at least -- from title consideration.

2:00 p.m.: Good afternoon from rain-soaked Augusta National, where we incurred a brief downpour that delayed Round 3 for about 30 minutes, but players are back on the course … for now. Conditions will be wet and windy for the remainder of the day. Hopefully, it won't be anything that will halt play once again. (If it does, I can always live blog a spring football scrimmage or something, right?)

As always, hit me up at the e-mail address above with questions, comments or -- and this is important -- correections. Uh, I mean "corrections." Right. Anyway, let's get going …

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.