AUGUSTA, April 7, 2012 – The third day dawned warm and sunny; the course has dried out well, and the greens appear very fast. There’s not as much of a breeze as yesterday. The flags are barely rippling and the golfers seem ready to go.
Before going further, let me apologize for one glaring omission. Whenever Fred Couples was mentioned yesterday, I FAILED to say “He is 52 years old.” The mainstream media seems obsessed with his age, as though he were rapidly approaching senility as well as a lack of coordination and sufficient strength to play golf.
Look at most of those green jacketed guys all over the course, ex-winners and members, and it’s hardly spring chicken time.
“For an old guy,” Couples played some excellent golf yesterday as did his co-leader Jason Dufner who is a tad younger.
The opening round Saturday saw the guys’ scoring all over the course, as Couples dropped a place with a bogey for three under; Dufner leading at six under, Lee Westwood ended up tied for second, and by the time the third hole was played, Matt Kuchar ended up a co-leader as well. And they were still talking of Couples’ age, “the pressure is beginning to show on him.”
Tiger Woods, at 37 it must be noted, was sitting 40th. He’s not broken par yet, but there is time left for a miracle. He is hard pressed to explain his frustration and was out on the practice course until late. He keeps talking of needing patience, and at this point should consult his Hinayana for some positive reinforcement in his life.
His putts have been pathetic, his wedges unpredictable, and his drives just consistently inconsistent. Everyone agrees it’s just not the old Tiger before his world fell apart.
By the seventh hole, Lee Westwood had dropped back one, and the co-leaders were Matt Kuchar and Louis Oosthuizen.
But time and leads changed, and within an hour one of the favorite come-from-behind guys, Phil Mickelson, had a six under and was sharing the lead honors with both Kuchar and Oosthuizen briefly, till the lead was taken over by relative newcomer Peter Hanson with seven under. Hanson (age 35 if we are keeping score) is a Swedish golfer, has experience mostly in Europe, and was accepted under a Temporary Membership Status on the 12th of March.
It didn’t take long for Kuchar to be taken out of the mix, leaving the South African Oosthuizen, the Swede Hanson, and the American Mickelson, for whom this could be his 4th Masters Championship. He previously won in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
While all three were shooting well, Hanson hung on like grim death and finally seized the lead as his alone. At the 18th hole, he was the clear leader with a healthy nine under par, and had the lowest round of the tournament so far by two, a 65. And he was playing in only his second Masters! He had started out the day with a bogey, but ended up the leader.
Phil Mickelson tied with Luis Oosthuizen at eight under, was second after a birdie on 18, and the crowd cheered him all the way as the shadows began to lengthen on Augusta.
The “penultimate group” as they were called included Westwood, Kuchar, Watson and Couples, who last won the Masters in 1992, in that basic order.
The sartorial shout-out of the day goes to Sergio Garcia, who wore white slacks and a bright blue shirt, perfectly matched to his golf shoes in the same shade.
The only mention of Woods was that he had a bad first few holes, and ended up with a 72 for the day. It included a problem on 13 after which he got mad (again) and drove the club into the ground (again).
And perhaps that was enough said.
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