Masters blog: A rusty Cabrera makes his move
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8 p.m.: A rusty Cabrera makes his move
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tell a player he could have three career PGA Tour victories, and it sounds a little like the resume of a journeyman player. But what if each of those victories just happened to be a major championship?
Argentine Angel Cabrera is the man with such a potential scenario in the works at the 75th Masters. Sure, Cabrera has three European Tour victories and several others around South America. But the 2009 Masters champion counts only one other PGA Tour triumph: the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Could he go three-for-three in the XL Department at Augusta National on Sunday?
He at least put himself in position to have that opportunity, shooting a smooth, 5-under 67 on a Saturday (tying for low round) when the lead groups did little to put any separation between them and the pack. Thus, at 8-under 208 through 54 holes, with only one man ahead of him (Rory McIlroy) and being the only competitor within six shots of the lead who has previously won a major, Cabrera will have a shot at collecting his second green jacket. Not a great shot, but a shot nonetheless. He’ll play alongside McIlroy in the final group on Sunday.
Even Cabrera would have scoffed at the mere thought of contending deep into the weekend at the outset of the week. He reportedly told Nick Faldo Tuesday evening at the Masters’ Champions Dinner that his game was not in very good shape. Having taken four months off from August-January to rest a left wrist hampered by tendinitis, he arrived to Augusta showing little form, having missed the cut in Houston last week. His lone positive result in six events this season: a tie for seventh at the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open last month, when a majority of the world’s top players were in Miami competing at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
But he has kept plugging along, working diligently on his game with mentor Charlie Epps and trying his best to to shake off the rust. On Saturday, he drove the ball well and his power came in quite handy, helping set up short-iron approaches that led to birdies on four holes and helping him overpower the Augusta’s vulnerable par 5s by getting home on two and in a greenside bunker at a third.
“I didn’t play for about four months, so I’m just getting my groove,” he said. “I’m just practicing a lot.”
Cabrera hit 13 fairways and 14 greens en route to making six birdies overall and climbing from T-18 into championship contention.
On Sunday, Cabrera will have to hope his experience (this is his 12th Masters start) counts for something against the young guns such as Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel and Jason Day, who between them had competed in only three Masters prior to this April.
“Yeah, the young kids are playing very well,” Cabrera said. “I think they it deserve it, Rory, Jason. But obviously I have won the Masters, so that should help me a lot.”
– Jeff Babineau
8 p.m.: From Augusta to Southeast Asia
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Win or lose on Sunday, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy has a busy week ahead. He is set to play in the Maybank Malaysian Open in Kuala Lampur, and his agent, Chubby Chandler, says his 21-year-old prodigy will be there.
Should he win and celebrate in Georgia into the wee hours Monday, when would McIlroy show up in Asia?
Said Chandler, a smile creasing his face, “As long as he has a (green) jacket on, they don’t care when he gets there.”
Chandler made note that another one of his clients at International Sports Management, Louis Oosthuizen, made it to Sweden the week after winning the Open Championship at St. Andrews last summer, “and he went for nothing. Rory’s not going for nothing.” The reference was to appearance fees allowed on the European Tour.
As for McIlroy, his parents aren’t with him this week in Augusta but he has some buddies from home alongside who will help him keep his mind free of taking a four-shot lead into the Masters on Sunday. He plans to sleep in Sunday and take in the Ulster-Northhampton Heineken Cup quarterfinal rugby match that will be aired mid-morning. He’ll tee off in the final round along with two-time major winner Angel Cabrera at 2:40 p.m. EST.
McIlroy’s main off-course activity this week has been throwing around an American football they purchased earlier in the week with his buddies, but after a woman in the neighborhood asked the lads to vacate the cul-de-sac, McIlroy says he’s moved his came of catch indoors.
“We’ve been throwing it about the house,” he said, “trying not to break any lamps and trying not to disturb the lady next door.”
– Jeff Babineau
5:50 p.m.: Scott keeps alive hope of first Aussie Masters win
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Adam Scott is playing in his 10th Masters, and he never has finished better than his tie for ninth in his 2002 debut. Now 30, Scott has gone from a player hoping to challenge for No. 1 in the world a few years back to, during the last few seasons, a player struggling just to find his way.
His switch to the long putter just before the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February seemingly has helped ignite something, giving him more comfort on the greens, and Saturday at Augusta National he threw his name into the mix at the 75th Masters with a third-round 67. It was his best effort in 35 rounds at Augusta, and only the second time he has posted a sub-70 score. He stands at 7-under 209.
“I think I’m getting a better understanding,” he said. “Maybe I’m a slow learner.”
An Australian never has won the Masters, and Sunday it appears the country will at least have a legitimate shot, as those Down Under say at home, “to break the duck.” Scott is hanging around the lead, as is 23-year-old Jason Day, who Sunday was tied for first heading into Amen Corner.
Scott was 15 years old and watching at home when countryman Greg Norman, who has been a supportive mentor, squandered a six-shot lead on Sunday and lost to Nick Faldo. Norman was a four-time runner-up here, never breaking through.
“That was very hard,” Scott said of watching Norman’s collapse. “It was almost tears at home that day. I can’t tell you what a hero and inspiration he’s been. . . . Everyone was devastated. Everybody really felt for Greg.”
– Jeff Babineau
5:09 p.m.: McIlroy retains Masters lead, heads to back nine
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rory McIlroy is clinging to the Masters lead at the turn in the third round.
The 21-year-old from Northern Ireland was far from spectacular Saturday – a birdie at the fourth, a bogey at the fifth – but an even-par 36 on the front side was good enough to keep the lead at 10 under.
His playing partner in the final group, Masters rookie Jason Day of Australia, briefly claimed the top spot with birdies on three of the first five holes to get to 11 under. But a three-putt at the par-3 sixth gave him his first bogey since Thursday. Another at the seventh cost him the lead.
Day and K.J. Choi are one shot back.
Tiger Woods is struggling. He took a pair of bogeys and made the turn with a 37, four shots off the lead.
– Associated Press
• • •
12:55 p.m.: Couples' caddie out scouting hold locations
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Shortly past noon and more than 2 1/2 hours before the leaders will tee off, Augusta National is already packed with patrons. One man stood out among the sundresses and polo shirts circling the 18th green. It was Fred Couples’ caddie, Joe LaCava, scouting Saturday’s hole locations. Couples is in seventh place, five shots back of leader Rory McIlroy.
LaCava, sporting a New York Yankees baseball cap, sunglasses and a UConn basketball T-shirt, said most of Saturday’s hole locations were the “usual suspects.” Two new ones stood out – a back right hole on the short, par-4 third hole and a center, front location on the 17th.
“I don’t want to call them easy, because nothing’s easy out here, but they are accessible,” he said.
The 350-yard third hole is set up to encourage aggressive play.
The tees are located about 10 yards in front of the back of the back of the tee. The hole’s location – right of the massive bunker fronting the green and far enough back to not necessitate a full, spinning wedge shot – means players can try to hit their drives up near the green.
LaCava said he hadn’t talked to Couples, who was scheduled to tee off in two hours, today. “No news is usually good news.”
- Sean Martin
9:45 a.m.: Pairings to watch
AUGUSTA, Ga. – With the third round about to get underway, here’s the pairings worth keeping an eye on:
10:35 a.m.: Ernie Els: The South African, a two-time runner-up here, badly wants to win a Masters before his career is complete. It probably won’t be this year. Els made the cut on the number and will play solo in the first group off.
11:15 a.m.: Nick Watney-Bill Haas: Watney and Haas look enough alike that they’re often confused for each other. They were two of the Tour’s hottest players early in the season, but couldn’t bring their success to Augusta National’s hallowed grounds.
11:35 a.m.: Miguel Angel Jimenez-Bubba Watson: This is a rematch of their Ryder Cup singles match, which Jimenez won, 4 and 3.
12:05 p.m.: Ryan Moore-Ian Poulter: This is one for the fashionable. Moore has been wearing a tie around Augusta National, and Poulter is, well, Poulter.
12:35 p.m.: Dustin Johnson-Adam Scott: Two promising young players with ties to Butch Harmon. Johnson currently works with Harmon, while Scott used to. Johnson and Scott were also paired during this tournament’s first two rounds.
12:55 p.m.: Phil Mickelson-Gary Woodland: Both are eight shots off the lead, so they’ll have the pedal to the metal, trying to play as aggressive as possible. Should be fun to watch.
1:25 p.m.: Sergio Garcia-Angel Cabrera: Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion, is seven shots back. Garcia, who has just two top-10s in 12 starts here, is six closer.
1:35 p.m.: Ross Fisher-Brandt Snedeker: Fisher plays best in majors when his wife, Jo, was due during the week of the 2009 British Open, where Fisher contended before finishing 13th. Jo is due again, but not until a couple weeks after the Masters. Snedeker finished third here in 2008.
1:45 p.m.: Luke Donald-Jim Furyk: Donald and Furyk both shot themselves back into contention with 68s Friday. They are six shots off the lead.
1:55 p.m.: Lee Westwood-Charl Schwartzel: Westwood shot himself back into contention with a second-round 67. He can recapture the No. 1 position in the world with a good finish this week.
2:05 p.m.: Rickie Fowler-Fred Couples: Two fan favorites in this pairing. Fowler was 3 when Couples won here in 1992. Both are five shots back.
2:15 p.m.: Y.E. Yang-Ricky Barnes: Yang, the first Asian man to win a major, is five shots back in his pursuit of a second major. Barnes, who starred here as an amateur in 2003, is just looking for his first PGA Tour victory.
2:25 p.m.: Geoff Ogilvy-Alvaro Quiros: Ogilvy, like Day, is trying to become the first Australian to win the Masters. Quiros, the 18-hole co-leader, is looking to bounce back from a second-round 73.
2:35 p.m.: K.J. Choi-Tiger Woods: Choi and Woods played together in all four rounds of last year’s Masters, Woods’ first event back after his scandal broke.
2:45 p.m.: Rory McIlroy-Jason Day: Their combined age is 44. Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he won here in 1986.
- Sean Martin
9:15 a.m.: Thunderstorms in the forecast this afternoon
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The final group, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, as well as Tiger Woods and K.J. Choi in the group before them might run into some inclement weather this afternoon, with the forecast calling for a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms starting at 2 p.m. and extending for the rest of the day.
Woods and Choi tee off at 2:35 p.m., while McIlroy and Day are slated for 2:45 p.m.
Those teeing off earlier, like Ernie Els going out by himself at 10:35 a.m., will have nice weather through the 1 p.m. hour, with temperatures rising into the mid 80s.
Sunday's forecast still calls for sunny skies and highs in the upper 80s.
- Nick Masuda
9:00 a.m.: Playing with numbers
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Wondering what Tiger Woods’ odds are of being victorious at Augusta National? What about Fred Couples’ chances, or Rory McIlroy’s? Here’s how past Masters winners stood through 36 holes to show you who has history on their side:
28: The number of times in 74 previous Masters that the 36-hole leader has gone on to win the Masters. Only two players have performed the feat since 2000 – Mike Weir (2003) and Trevor Immelman (2008).
25: Years since the Masters champion was outside the top 10 through 36 holes. Jack Nicklaus was tied for 17th midway through the 1986 Masters.
13: Years since the Masters champion was outside the top 5 through 36 holes. Mark O’Meara was tied for ninth after 36 holes at the 1998 Masters.
8: The largest comeback at the Masters after the second round is eight strokes (Jack Burke, 1956).
3: Number of times Tiger Woods trailed through 36 holes in his four Masters victories. He was two shots back in 2001, four shots behind in 2002 and six behind in 2005.
0: Number of times Tiger Woods has won a major when trailing through 54 holes.
8: Number of the 20 first-time Masters participants to make the cut. Jason Day (2nd) and Rickie Fowler (T-7) are faring best among the first-timers through 36 holes.
48, 4, 18: Age in years, months and days of Julius Boros when he won the 1968 PGA Championship to become the oldest major winner in history. Fred Couples, 51, is five shots back with 36 holes remaining.
11: Number of times Couples has finished in the top 10 in 26 Masters appearances (42 percent).
30: Consecutive cuts made by Steve Stricker, best on the PGA Tour. He birdied four of his final six holes Friday for a 2-under 142 total.
- Sean Martin
• Tuesday's blog, click here.
• Wednesday's blog, click here.
• Thursday's blog, click here.
• Friday's blog, click here.