Maggert leads Masters, Woods rallies

By MIKE RABUN, UPI Sports Writer  |  April 12, 2003 at 7:41 PM
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AUGUSTA, Ga., April 12 (UPI) -- A potentially one-sided Masters turned into a wild scramble Saturday and the man who can scramble better than anybody in the game of golf launched himself right into the middle of it.

At the end of a second straight marathon day at the Augusta National Golf Club, Jeff Maggert found himself in the lead. Tiger Woods, who earlier in the day had been one poor shot away from missing the cut for the first time in 101 tournaments, found himself with a solid chance of becoming the first player ever to win the Masters three straight years.

Both shot a 6-under 66 Saturday and became the focal points going into Sunday's closing round, which will begin with seven players owning sub-par totals.

The second round of the Masters was completed early Saturday and Canadian Mike Weir emerged with a four-shot advantage, one off the tournament record for 36 holes.

That lead grew to six shots early in the third round, played during a sunsplashed day on a course that finally began to dry out after almost a full week of rain.

Weir stood at 7-under through eight holes, but over the final 10, he lost four shots to par and tumbled out of the lead. Weir put his second shot at the 11th into a hazard, hit into the water at the 13th and suffered bogeys at the 16th and 17th as well.

That forced him to surrender the top spot to Maggert, a winner only two times during a 12-year PGA Tour career who has all but disappeared from the sport over the past two seasons. From virtually nowhere, Maggert stormed to a 6-under 66 in a round that included a double bogey at the 11th and five birdies over the last six holes.

That put him at 5-under 211 through 54 holes and gave him a two-shot lead over Weir, who turned in a 75 for his 213 total.

"I just need to pay attention to what I'm doing," Maggert said. "There is nobody out there who I can control but myself. If I hit good shots, I have as good a chance as anybody."

Tied for third at 2-under 214 were Vijay Singh and David Toms, both major title winners and both authors of a 70 in the third round that put them in position for another huge milestone in their careers.

Another shot back at 1-under 215 were two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who seems to save his best golf for his trips to the Augusta National, and Phil Mickelson, who year after year has challenged at the Masters only to suffer a career's worth of heartbreak. Mickelson finished under par thanks to an 18-foot par putt from the fringe at the final green.

Also at 215, a mere four shots out of the lead, was Woods. The world's No. 1 player was very fortunate to still be playing when the second round was over, but now has a chance to put together the largest comeback victory in the history of the Masters.

No one has ever shot a 76 in the opening round of the tournament, which he did, and won. When the third round began, Woods was tied for 45th. His bogey-free 66 allowed him to pass 37 players.

Woods played eight holes of his second round early in the day and struggled through them in 3-over par. When he three-putted from 12 feet at the par-5 eighth, his 17th hole, he found himself needing a par at the ninth to make the cut.

Woods drove into the trees to the right of the fairway, hit his second shot into a greenside bunker and blasted out to within 3 1/2 feet. The downhill putt hit the center of the hole.

"You don't do anything differently," Woods said. "You just line it up, go through your routine and release the putter."

His 101st straight cut made puts him within 12 of the all-time record held by Byron Nelson.

Given that reprieve, Woods was the beneficiary of two early breaks in the third round. He started on the back nine and soon made a 40-foot birdie putt at the 11th. And even though Woods thought his second shot was destined for the water at the par-5 13th, it somehow managed to stay dry. He promptly pitched onto the green and made a putt for birdie to ignite his round.

The rest of his day included a delicate, 30-foot downhill putt at the par-3 sixth that he said might have gone into a nearby bunker had it not hit the hole.

Woods started the third round 11 shots behind and finished it within four shots of the lead.

"I thought if I could get back to even par I would have a chance Sunday and I've done that," Woods said. "I had some good fortune and I got momentum on my side.

"There are some guys up there who have won major championships (Singh, Toms and Olazabal) and they will be tough. But you can't think about who is there. All you want is to have a chance and see what happens."

In addition to a third consecutive Masters and his fourth overall, Woods will be attempting to win his ninth major title, which would place him halfway in his journey to the record held by Jack Nicklaus.

Still in with a slight chance at the title were the three players who were at even-par after 54 holes -- Jim Furyk, Len Mattiace and Jonathan Byrd. Ernie Els, Rich Beem, Fred Couples and Nick Price were among those at 1-over 216.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, who shot a 66 in Friday's opening round and who held the lead for most of Friday's dawn-to-dark action at the Augusta National, tumbled to 2-over 218 after shooting a 78 in the third round. That score included a nine at the par-5 13th.

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