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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 1:31 p.m., Saturday, April 7, 2007

Woods catches up, then struggles at Masters

By Eddie Pells
Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. — What looked like an inevitable march to a fifth green jacket took a nasty and familiar detour for Tiger Woods at the Masters today.

For the second time in three days, Woods finished his round bogey-bogey to tarnish a good day and leave the course on a downer.

"I hung in there as best I could," Woods said. "I blew it at the end and made two careless bogeys the last two holes."

The bad finish left him at even-par 72 and 3 over for the tournament, not where he wanted to be, but still right in the thick of it.

He was tied for third, two strokes behind leader Vaughn Taylor, the Augusta native who had three holes to play on a devilishly windy day.

"It's not like I'm 100 back, so I've got a shot at it," Woods said.

Stuart Appleby, trying to become the first Australian to win the Masters, made three straight birdies early in the third round and led for most of the day until a drive into the trees on the right of the 17th fairway triggered a triple-bogey. He shot 1-over 73 and finished at 2 over.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson shot 1-over 73 to finish the day 6 over — tied with Retief Goosen and David Toms for 13th place. Still in the running? Why not?

"I know that over par is going to be the winning score," Mickelson said. "I've got to try to get to 2 or 3 over tomorrow, which is going to be a tough task given where I am. But it's certainly not impossible."

It's within reach for Woods, as well. And for a while on the front nine, it seemed like a foregone conclusion.

He moved into second place after making two birdies, including one after an 18-foot putt on the par-5 eighth, which he played as a three-shot hole in deference to the 50-degree temperatures and 20 mph winds that wreaked havoc all day.

He was still only two shots off the lead when he reached the 17th tee box. But he yanked his drive well left, cursing loud enough to be picked up by the TV microphones on the tee box. His next shot came straight out of a carnival — a hard-right banana ball around the pines that landed in a greenside bunker.

He made bogey from there, then another after peppering his drive on 18, but missing badly on the approach.

He knew the tournament was still there for the taking after what he called one of the hardest rounds he'd ever played at Augusta.

"If you make 18 pars, you're going to move up that board," Woods said. "Normally, that's not the case."

Indeed, it looked as if an over-par score would be good enough to win the Masters for the first time since Jackie Burke did it with a 1-over 289 in 1956.

But some players made mistakes that simply took them too far back.

None was worse than the 9 carded by U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy on the par-5 15th. He laid up for his third shot over the water, but left it short to trickle backward. Lying 5, he did almost the exact same thing, and went from a tie for sixth to 19th place.

Wind was making it particularly hard for players to choose clubs and commit to shots. Woods stood in the seventh fairway for a full two minutes after reaching his ball, waiting to make a decision on what club to hit and how to hit it. He made par there.

The stakes were even higher on No. 12, the short par-3 that crosses Rae's Creek and ends on a narrow green. Woods went over the green into the sand on that one, setting him up for his first bogey of the day.

Craig Stadler, the 52-year-old celebrating the 25-year anniversary of his Masters title, was near the leaderboard until he took triple-bogey on No. 12. He shot 79 and finished at 9 over.

There were 60 players in action Saturday, the most to make the cut since 1993.

Among them was Fred Couples, who tied a record by making his 23rd straight cut Friday. His aching back got no relief, though, and he shot 6-over 78 to enter the final round at 14 over.

"If it stays like this, I don't think anyone will be under par," Couples said. "It's just hard. You almost feel lucky if you make birdies."

With the third round almost over, only 103 birdies had been recorded, compared with 350 bogeys or worse, and the average score had ballooned to more than 77.