2008 Masters: No leisurely Sunday for contenders

AUGUSTA, GA. | If it’s true the Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine Sunday, a couple of contenders forgot to bring their best stuff to the show.

With nine holes remaining, as many as four players were within striking distance of leader Trevor Immelman. Instead of putting pressure on the 28-year-old South African, each failed to mount a charge or capitalize on crucial situations.

None of the top 22 players heading into Round 4 broke par Sunday, and only four of the 45 players shot lower than 72. The top 15 on the leaderboard after three rounds averaged 75.07 for the final round, with only Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington among the 15 players shooting even-par 72.

Steve Flesch had the best opportunity to catch Immelman. The lefthander was two shots behind the leader playing Amen Corner (Nos. 11-13) but made double bogey on the par-3 12th hole. The blemish rattled Flesch, and he followed with bogeys on Nos. 14-17 in a back-nine 42.

“It’s a little disheartening, very disappointing, but that’s all right,” said Flesch, who shot a final-round 78 and tied for fifth. “Still, my best finish in a major, and hopefully if I get in the situation again, it’ll turn out differently. I played well all week. I just played nine bad holes, and that’s the way I’m going to look at it.”

It was a manic weekend for Flesch, who watched Mickelson collect three birdies, four bogeys and a double in a third-round 75. In addition to Flesch’s travails in the final round, he was paired with Paul Casey and watched the Englishman fade to a 79 that included two birdies, seven bogeys and a double.

“I still had a great week,” Casey said. “It’s very disappointing today, and I’ll go away and think about this. But I’ve got to take the positives out of it, as I always try to do. There was some very, very good golf that I played this week.”

Brandt Snedeker was tied for the lead with Immelman after making eagle at No. 2 but played the next seven holes 4 over par. But with trouble around every turn on Augusta National’s back side, Snedeker knew he still had a chance to pressure Immelman, despite being four shots behind.

The final setback came at the par-5 13th hole when Snedeker dunked his second shot into the creek for the second consecutive day. He hit his fourth shot onto the green and two-putted for a bogey. When Immelman made birdie, the lead had ballooned back to five. Bogeys by Snedeker at 13, 14 and 16 left him in third place after a final-round 77.

“It was just a day you never really felt comfortable,” Snedeker said. “Obviously if you didn’t feel comfortable at all and didn’t try to fight through it, you struggled, and that’s what I did. Live and learn.”

Woods and Cink didn’t play poorly over the final nine holes, but each had key opportunities they let slip away.

Woods holed a 75-foot bomb for birdie on the 11th and looked to make a move on the par-5 13th, where he escaped trees to give himself a 5-foot birdie attempt. He missed the putt moments after Immelman made a key par save on the 11th. The swing moved Woods five behind. A three-putt bogey on the 14th ended his hopes of a fifth green jacket.

Birdies at 14 and 16 propelled Cink into a third-place tie with Snedeker, but it was his consecutive bogeys at Nos. 9-11 that sealed his fate.

“I played basically like the way a lot of guys played today,” Cink said. “I made some bogeys, I made some birdies and I had fun.

“But it wasn’t quite enough.”

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