April 14, 2013 in Sports

Several with major credentials still in Masters hunt

Doug Ferguson Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Past Masters champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina hits out of a bunker on Saturday. He’s tied for the lead with Brandt Snedeker.
(Full-size photo)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The longest, strangest day at the Masters for Tiger Woods began with a text message from his agent Saturday morning to meet with Augusta National officials nearly six hours before his tee time. It ended some 10 hours later with a relieved fist pump for a key par that kept him in the mix for a green jacket.

It was far different for the two guys atop the leaderboard.

Brandt Snedeker, an emotional wreck when he last contended at the Masters five years ago, was the model of calm as he opened with 12 pars and fired off three late birdies for a 3-under 69.

“I’m not here to get a good finish,” Snedeker said. “I’m not here to finish top 5. I’m here to win, and that’s all I’m going to be focused on tomorrow. I realize what I have to do to do that, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that happens.”

Angel Cabrera, who has virtually disappeared from the scene since he won the Masters four years ago, felt comfortable on a difficult course as he birdied two of the last three holes for a 69 to join Snedeker in a share of the lead. It marks the third time in the last six years Cabrera has been in the last group at the Masters.

“That helps you to be more calm and have that experience,” Cabrera said.

“It all adds up and helps.”

They were at 7-under 209 heading into a final group that figures to be as dynamic as ever, with 13 players separated by five shots, a list that includes major champions (Woods, Cabrera), aging champions (Bernhard Langer) and a half-dozen players who have been on the cusp of majors before.

Woods looms large, for more than just his star power.

For a few tense hours in the morning, it was not clear if Woods was going to get a chance to play.

Masters officials discovered late Friday evening that Woods had taken a bad drop in the second round and should have added two shots to his score.

Under normal circumstances, he would have been disqualified for signing an incorrect card. Officials took the blame for not alerting Woods to a potential problem – they found nothing wrong at first glance before he signed – and kept him in the tournament with two shots added to his score. Woods was covered under a 2-year-old rule that prevents DQs when a violation is reported by television viewers.

“It certainly was a distraction early,” Woods said after three birdies on his last seven holes for a 70. “It happens and you move on. I was ready to play come game time.”

So was Snedeker.

He’s been building toward a moment like this for the last year, and he seized his chance on a glorious afternoon by playing without a bogey. It was only two months ago when Snedeker was regarded the hottest player in golf when in three straight weeks he was runner-up to Woods, runner-up to Phil Mickelson and then won at Pebble Beach. His momentum was slowed by sore ribs that kept him out of golf for a month, though he appears to be hitting his stride.

“I’ve spent 32 years of my life getting ready for tomorrow,” Snedeker said. “I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t win. Period.”

Cabrera, whose two major titles include a Masters win in 2009, has plunged to No. 269 in the world.

“I’ve been working very hard for this moment,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “And I’ve got to take the opportunity.”

For Adam Scott, it’s a chance at redemption.

He was runner-up at the Masters two years ago, though the fresher wounds are from last summer at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, where the Australian bogeyed his last four holes and finished one shot behind in the British Open. Scott had a 69 and was one shot behind.

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