Sunday, April 13, 2003
Els has big hill to climb
The Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Ernie Els has built a career making the impossible seem possible.
That can be good and bad.
The good? At No. 7 in the third round of the Masters, he flew a 9-iron onto the green and rolling, rolling, rolling - right into the hole for eagle.
The bad? He hit a beautiful approach on No. 14 that landed inches away from the cup, then inexplicably spun backward - uphill all the way off the heavily contoured green.
"I got robbed there," Els said. "To me, it was almost impossible that could happen."
The bad luck on 14 resulted in the first of two straight bogeys, and when his even-par round was over, Els was thinking more about the disaster there than the eagle on 7.
The Big Easy finished at 1 over, six strokes behind Jeff Maggert. Considered Tiger Woods' most legitimate challenge at the Masters, Els' chances for a fourth major are in deep trouble.
"I guess when I calm down and really think about today, I'd like to think there's still a chance," Els said. "But it's an uphill climb."
MICKELSON'S DAY: He made bogeys out of the trees and birdies with his power and skill, then salvaged his day with a par putt that hung on the back side of the cup before falling on the 18th.
If fans wanted thrills, they knew exactly who to watch: Phil Mickelson. The show could get even better today. "I'm in striking distance," Mickelson proclaimed, after a wacky round of even-par left him at 1 under, tied with Tiger Woods and only four strokes off the lead.
The Best Player to Never Win a Major was barely a blip on the radar this week - he took nearly a month off to tend to his wife, who recently had a baby. But he says his swing feels fine, and his game is rounding into shape.
With Mickelson, that means adventure is always close at hand. "I hit some poor shots, some good ones," he said. "I hit some unsolid shots that led to some birdies and some solid shots that led to bogeys."
LANGER GOES HOME: While Tiger Woods was still in contention for a third straight Masters title, another streak came to an end at Augusta.
Bernhard Langer failed to make the cut for the first time since his Masters debut in 1982. The German returned in 1984 and cleared the 36-hole barrier 19 times in a row, the longest active streak in the tournament.
Langer missed the cut by a whopping six strokes after shooting rounds of 79 and 76, leaving him 11-over par. He fell short of the Masters record, 23 consecutive cuts made by Gary Player from 1959-82.
Also going home: John Huston, who had made the cut at Augusta 12 times in a row dating to 1990.
Fred Couples now has the longest active streak, stretching his run to 19 in a row when he made the cut with one stroke to spare.
UNUSUAL NINE: It wasn't any old quadruple bogey for Darren Clarke. Most players who implode on the par-5 13th hole do it by hitting ball after ball into Rae's Creek. Clarke only hit one in there.
He yanked his tee shot into the woods, chipped out for his second, and hit his third into the water. After a drop, he hit his fifth shot through the green, then took four strokes to get down for a round-ruining 9.
It was the low point of his round of 78, a score that took him from the lead after Friday's play was called by darkness to a tie for 27th.
OVERTIME: David Duval is struggling worse than he ever has in his career, but he can't be accused of packing it in.
After finishing off an 83 on Saturday - his worse score ever at the Masters - Duval headed to the practice range and hit balls for about an hour before cleaning out his locker and heading home.
He finished at 18-over 162 and in some strange company - tied with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, only four strokes better than Arnold Palmer.
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