Golf

Blog: Leaders 7-under; Tiger 3-under

Phillip Hodges (Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)
Course worker Phillip Hodges changes Tiger Woods' score on the 15th hole.
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The third round is in the books at the Masters. Recap all the sights and sounds from Augusta and check out our leaderboard to see the scores.

Tiger ends up where he started

With the golf world debating whether he should be here or not after Saturday morning's controversy (see below), a blue-clad Tiger Woods made a back-nine push to finish with a 2-under 70, putting him at 3-under for the tournament — exactly where he started when he woke up this morning.

POLL

  • Should Tiger Woods have withdrawn from the Masters?
    • Heck yeah! He clearly broke the rules
    • No way! He got his punishment

He went to bed at 3-under par last night and started play Saturday just 1-under after being assessed the two-stroke penalty earlier in the day. He played the front nine at even par, bogeying the ninth.

Tiger is still very much in the hunt. He was four shots off the lead when his round ended as Friday's leaders failed to raise the bar very much. But we must mention the daunting stat: Tiger has never won a major when trailing entering the final round.

You can recap his every move today with Golfweek.com's Tiger Tracker.

. . .

Crowded at the top of the board

No one separated themselves from the pack in the third round.

Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera were tied for the lead at 7-under when the round wrapped up. Snedeker made par on the first 12 holes before getting birdies on three out of four on the back nine. Cabrera birdied 18 to nab his share of the lead.

Six players were within four shots of the lead by day's end, including Tiger Woods. Jason Day, a leader for most of the day, bogeyed both 17 and 18 to fall back to 5-under.

Cabrera took the lead briefly on the 10th hole with a beautiful twisting birdie putt that found the bottom of the cup before dropping back on ensuing holes, then ultimately regaining his form with birdies on two of the final three holes.

Adam Scott shot a 69 on Saturday to end at 6-under, alone in third place. Marc Leishman and Day were both at 5-under. Matt Kuchar had a 3-under day to end at 4-under for the tournament. Tim Clark, who posted the day's best round, was tied with Tiger at 3-under.

. . .

Masters official sheds more light on decision

CBS opened its broadcast window with a long discussion of the Tiger incident. Fred Ridley, Chairman of the Competition Committee, explained the thought process that went into only penalizing Tiger a couple of strokes rather than disqualifying him.

The rule he cited was 33-7, which essentially gives the Competition Committee the discretion to waive a disqualification penalty if it deems it unnecessary. Ridley said that because the Committee had already ruled on Tiger's penalty before his round ended and originally opted not to punish him, it didn't think a disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard would be a "fair" punishment.

Tiger's post-round interview, in which he admitted to dropping the ball in a more advantageous position and a phone call tip from a viewer are what prompted further review and the eventual two-stroke penalty.

In other words: Tiger made an illegal drop. The Committee reviewed it while he was still on the course and decided not to punish him (or to inform him of a lack of punishment). His post-round comments and the call from a viewer raised further concerns. The Committee met with Tiger. They decided to penalize him two strokes for the bad drop. Disqualification for an incorrect scorecard was not considered since the Committee hadn't given him a head's up on the violation prior to him signing the card.

Is Tiger getting special treatment?

"We look at every player the same," Ridley said. "Whether this had been the last player who qualified, Tiger Woods, or any other of the main players in the field, it makes no difference."

The question left from this explanation is how, if the drop was reviewed initially, did it not warrant a punishment then? The debate goes on.

. . .

Watney, Olesen go low

Nick Watney and Thorbjorn Olesen — our favorite name of the tournament — had the best rounds outside of Tim Clark as each posted a 4-under 68. Watney moved to 1-under, and Olesen now sits at even par.

. . .

Tim Clark had a heck of a front nine

Languishing at 2-over to start the day, South Africa's Tim Clark shot 5-under with five birdies and four pars on the front nine to put himself in contention at 3-under for the tournament.

He birdied the 13th as well to move to 6-under for the day, dropped a shot on the 14th, then got it back on the 16th, then bogeyed again on the 18th to slide back to 5-under for the day. He is four shots off the lead going into Sunday.

. . .

Controversy continues to simmer over Tiger

Tiger Woods' presence in the final rounds is not sitting well with many in the golf community.

Golf Channel analyst Nick Faldo initially called for Tiger to "do the manly thing" and quit the tournament, saying Woods displayed no intention to follow the written rules after Woods made a bad drop on the 15th hole of Friday's second round that led to a two-stroke penalty.

Faldo, though, radically changed his tune on the CBS broadcast later Saturday, saying he felt it was the "correct" decision to allow Tiger to play now that the full timeline had been explained. Hmmm.

Golf great Greg Norman also urged for Woods to withdraw:

 

Tiger, of course, did no such thing. He played the round and shot a 2-under 70, erasing the two-stroke penalty. He released a series of tweets on the incident before the round, stitched together here:

"At hole #15, I took a drop that I thought was correct and in accordance with the rules. I was unaware at that time I had violated any rules. ... I didn’t know I had taken an incorrect drop prior to signing my scorecard. Subsequently, I met with the Masters Committee Saturday morning ... and was advised they had reviewed the incident prior to the completion of my round. Their initial determination ... was that there was no violation, but they had additional concerns based on my post-round interview. After discussing the situation ... with them this morning, I was assessed a two-shot penalty. I understand and accept the penalty and respect the Committees’ decision."

The "post-round interview" refers to comments he made that indicated he knew he was dropping the ball in the incorrect spot, something that many are arguing is grounds for his disqualification.

. . .

2012 champ has up-and-down day

Bubba Watson started Saturday all by his lonesome as one of the very last players to make the cut. He put the solitude to good use early, going birdie-birdie-birdie on his first three holes to move from 4-over to 1-over. The defending champion peaked at 4-under for the day after 10 holes.

But the 11th hole was mean to Bubba. A double bogey dropped him back to 2-over for the tournament, then he bogeyed 13 as well. Then came birdies at 15 and 16 to move him back to 1-over. He dropped another shot on 18 to end at 2-over.

. . .

Guan, Mickelson struggle big-time

Other notables in the morning groups included Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old Chinese phenom who snuck into weekend play despite a one-stroke penalty for slow play on Friday that nearly cost him dearly, and three-time Masters champ Phil Mickelson.

Guan finished 5-over on the day, 9-over for the tournament. Mickelson double bogeyed back-to-back holes at 11 and 12 and also ended up 5-over on the day, 8-over for the tournament. Both are near the very bottom of the leaderboard.

. . .

Here's a guy changing Tiger's score

Here are some fun photos from early action in the third round at Augusta, including one of a tournament staffer physically changing Tiger's score for the 15th hole Friday on the big board (at left). Also below are photos of Tianlang Guan in action and of Branden Grace holing out a bunker shot for eagle on the second (click on photos to enlarge):

. . .

Tiger won't get disqualified

The focus during play Friday was on a penalty that nearly cost 14-year-old Tianlang Guan a shot to play the weekend. By Friday night, the Internet was buzzing with speculation that Tiger Woods might be disqualified altogether.

Why? This CBSSports.com story explains the dirty details, but essentially Tiger may have misplayed the drop after his unlucky bounce into the water hazard on the 15th hole, an infraction that could theoretically have earned him the boot from the tournament.

Our Robert Lusetich confirmed Saturday morning that Masters officials reviewed the drop and decided that Woods would not be disqualified, only assessed a two-stroke penalty.

A disqualification would have been a massive turn of events, of course, and would make an already bad break — Woods' approach on 15 was so perfect it hit the flagstick, causing the carom into the water — epically awful. Still, a potential birdie has now become, in essence, a triple bogey.

Let the debate begin about whether this is the right decision. Some of Tiger's fellow players are chiming in:

Tagged: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Thorbjorn Olesen, Graeme McDowell, Tim Clark, Jason Day, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Hunter Mahan, Nick Watney, Angel Cabrera

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