by Jeff Skinner
Saturday at The Masters is always called moving day as players try to move up the leaderboard to position themselves for that Sunday charge. The moving day moniker held true today but painfully for many players it was down the leaderboard and not up.
However, Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera fought the declining trend and both carded three under 69’s to finish tied for the lead at The 77th Masters.
Most painful of all the day’s failures may have been the ever popular and ageless Fred Couples. He started the day five under par and in the thick of it but faltered greatly down the stretch and played his last five holes in five over par.
Jason Day started the day with a one stroke lead at six under and looked to have found the secret to Augusta, make plenty of pars and no mistakes. He was solid all day and after 12 pars finally carded his first birdie and looked to be striping it. But a poor approach on 17 and a three putt on 18 left the Aussie shaking his head and two behind the leaders.
Augusta National wasn’t giving up many low rounds today so a round of two or three under went a long way. And that’s just what the leaders, Cabrera and Snedeker shot.
Snedeker, the fifth ranked player in the world, parred all the way until the 13th hole where he got his first birdie. With birdies at 15 and 16 and no bogeys all day his three under 69 propelled him into the lead as he chases his first major victory. Snedeker was having an outstanding season until he was sidelined with a rib injury. He has a win, two seconds and a third on the PGA Tour this year.
Angel Cabrera on the other hand appears to disappear from the golf landscape only to show up every now and then at the majors and even win a few. The 2009 Masters Champion and the 2007 US Open Champion wasn’t setting the world on fire this season. He has only one top ten finish on the PGA Tour this year and has fallen to 269th in the world rankings. But today he looked like a world beater and his six birdie, three bogey round put him to 7 under par and in perfect position for another major championship.
For awhile there it looked like it might be an all Australian final as Jason Day hung tough and Adam Scott slowly worked his way up the leaderboard. Scott finished well with three birds in his last six holes to card a 69 and only one stroke off the lead.
In fact, even with Day’s poor finish the Aussies are in good shape to claim their first ever Masters Championship. Scott is in third, and Day and Leishman are tied for fourth.
Matt Kuchar also carded that magic round of three under 69 to jump up thirteen spots into sixth place but the round of the day goes to Tim Clark. The short hitting, long putter carrying Clark carded an amazing 5 under par 67 to move up 30 places into a tie for seventh place with Tiger Woods.
Woods fell down the leaderboard before he even hit the practice green as he was hit with that 2 shot penalty for “hitting from the wrong spot.” Woods looked ready to take it out on the course as he opened with a birdie on the first but an up and down round cost him a share of the lead at one time and three straight bogeys to finish put him in a place he does not enjoy. Tiger has never come from behind to win a major championship.
Each of the leaders bring their own stories into tomorrow’s final round. Can Snedeker vanquish the ghosts of the2008 Masters where he broke down after failing to hold the lead? Can Cabrera put his powerful stamp on another major championship which would have to give him a pass into the Hall of Fame? Can Adam Scott put the 2012 Open Championship to rest with his first major win? Will his countrymen Day or Leishman be the Aussie that breaks the Down Under Jinx? Can Kuchar bring us back to his triumphant days of amateur golf when he stole our hearts with his smile at Augusta and win his first major? Could Tim Clark throw more gas on the “anchored stroke” debate with an unlikely win here? Will Tiger ever come from behind to win a major?
Or will there be a major collapse and a mighty surge from someone further back in the pack? Whatever happens, and it usually does, this Masters has once again given us all we could want. Now, just one more day, one more round for history.