Augusta set for Sunday shootout Curses! Tiger bitten by three-putts
By DOUG FERGUSON
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Lee Westwood kept his cool even as Augusta National thundered with too many cheers to count.
Phil Mickelson made consecutive eagles with three shots. Fred Couples chipped in for eagle ahead of him. Ricky Barnes chipped in for a birdie behind him. Tiger Woods got into the act with three straight birdies to keep his name high on a star-studded leaderboard.
Saturday at the Masters sounded an awful lot like Sunday.
"You couldn't figure out who was doing what because there were roars happening simultaneously throughout the course," Mickelson said. "I thought that it was really a fun day to see the leaderboard change."
Westwood made sure there was no change at the top.
With his best chance ever to win that elusive major, Westwood made only one bogey and finished with a tough par for a 4-under 68 to take a one-shot lead over Mickelson into the final round of a Masters that keeps getting better.
"I think I'm ready," Westwood said.
By the look of the names behind him, he better be.
Westwood, No. 4 in the world and among the best without a major, was at 12-under 204. He will be in the final group with Mickelson, No. 3 in the world and the sentimental favorite at Augusta given his turbulent year at home with his wife and mother battling breast cancer.
Right in front of them will be Woods, No. 1 in the world and playing as though five months of a humiliating sex scandal never happened. He finished with a 3-foot birdie on the last hole for a 2-under 70, putting him at 8-under 208 along with K.J. Choi, who also had a 70.
"I think that's what everybody wants to see," Westwood said. "Everybody has missed Tiger on the golf course the last five or six months, and he's up there. Phil is up there. You've got 4, 3 and 1 in the world. It's a good leaderboard, I think."
Just as exciting as the names were the endless cheers from all corners of the course, for just about everyone but Westwood. Over the final hour, his only birdie was a two-putt from 25 feet on the 15th. Ho-hum.
"The only thing I can control is what I do, where I hit it," Westwood said. "The guys up on the leaderboard there are great players. They are going to do something. You have to expect the unexpected at times."
It got so crazy at one point that in the time it took Westwood to play the 11th hole with a hard-earned par, Mickelson made up four shots on him with an 8-foot eagle putt on the par-5 13th and holing out a wedge on the par-4 14th.
Barnes knocked in his birdie from behind the 13th green, and even more impressive was his 60-foot birdie putt across the 14th green.
The thrills never stopped.
"It was probably one of those great days in golf at a major championship," Westwood said. "I obviously wasn't privy to the things you have seen, but I was well aware somebody was making a charge, and I figured it was Phil. That's what major championships are about. They're tough ones to win because great players do great things."
Mickelson hasn't looked great all year, the first time since 2003 he has come to Augusta without a victory. Now, he goes after a third green jacket by playing in the final group at a major for the first time since his meltdown at Winged Foot in the 2006 U.S. Open.
His spirits have been lifted in part by having his family — wife Amy and the three kids — with him for the first time since The Players Championship nearly a year ago, right before she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Amy Mickelson has not been to the golf course.
"It's fun having them, just being together," he said. "It's been a fun week."
The course was not meant to yield so many fireworks — no one shot better than 67 — yet the quality of the play was superb. Westwood did his work on the front nine, rolling in a bending birdie putt at the first, hitting a 4-iron just over the bunker to 10 feet on the fourth and slowly starting to pull away.
Then came the cheers and the chaos.
Couples was walking off the 14th tee when he motioned at Mickelson across the 13th fairway to get it going. Lefty obliged with a 7-iron to 8 feet, followed by his eagle from the 14th fairway that produced such volume that Westwood backed off his putt on the 11th.
"It was pretty funny because we were texting a little bit about how low I was going to have to go to catch him and maybe play with him tomorrow," said Couples, who was in the final group when Mickelson won his last Masters in 2006. "For a time, we were both playing pretty well. But then he went eagle-eagle-birdie, and that's a pretty big jump to get going.
"Once again, I just love this place."