Appleby survives with the lead at cool and windy Masters

Apr 8, 2007 - 1:58 AM By John Nestor PA SportsTicker Golf Editor

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Ticker) - Someone will win The Masters on Sunday. There's a green jacket waiting for someone, despite what was on display Saturday at Augusta National.

Stuart Appleby, Vaughn Taylor, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods all made pushes toward the top of the leaderboard in the third round - and all gave back shots on a punishing day at the season's first major.

Appleby, looking to become the first Australian winner here, has a one-shot lead at 2-over-par 218, the highest third-round leading score in the history of the event. His round was a snapshot of a wild day at Augusta, one that got crazier as the day went on.

Only three players entered Saturday's third round with red numbers. Now there are none. Appleby was the last holdout, remaining at 1-under through 16 holes before a triple-bogey at 17 dropped him to 2-over and into a mix of players jockeying for position.

"That's golf. That's Augusta," Appleby said. "It was a tough opponent. And it will be a tough opponent (Sunday)."

It didn't start out being too tough for Appleby, though it certainly ended that way.

Temperatures at Augusta were unseasonably cold but Appleby got off to a hot start, birdying Nos. 2, 3 and 4 for his second straight round with a run of three consecutive birdies. He gave them all back - plus another stroke - for a 1-over 73.

Appleby's score is the highest by a third-round leader, surpassing Jack Nicklaus and Tommy Jacobs, who shared the 54-hole lead at even-par 216 in 1966.

"Overall it was very comfortable out there considering conditions were an extreme opponent," Appleby said. "I really played decent all day. Overall I felt like there were plenty of holes where I could have let more slip throughout the day."

Taylor, an Augusta resident who went to college at Augusta State, had the locals recalling Larry Mize as he grabbed the lead at 1-over after a birdie at the par-5 15th.

An Augusta native, Mize won The Masters 20 years ago. But Taylor's quest to join him as another unlikely local winner took a hit with bogeys at 16, 17 and 18.

Taylor, who finished with a 5-over 77 and admitted to sneaking a peek at the leaderboard, said playing with the lead did not bother him but his results suggest otherwise.

"I knew. I wasn't watching the board much but I did know at that time," he said of taking the lead. "I felt all right. I felt nervous but I felt good. I felt pretty good the last three holes but (the course) is playing tough."

At 4-over 220, Taylor is tied for fourth with Zach Johnson (76) and Padraig Harrington (75) of Ireland.

Rose settled for a 75 after taking a similar route to Taylor, stumbling to a bogey-bogey-par finish. Rose fell a shot off the lead at 3-over 219, where he is joined by Woods.

Woods started the third round behind 14 players and now trails only Appleby. He carded the second-best round of the day with an even-par 72 but squandered a chance to have the lead entering the final round.

A birdie at the par-5 13th got Woods to 1-over for the tournament, where he stayed until consecutive bogeys to close his round. His momentum really came to a halt on the par-5 15th, where he three-putted from long range for a par.

"I made a mistake at 17 by not playing long," Woods said. "At 18, I hit a good 8-iron but the wind switched. Just got the wrong gust at the wrong time but that's the way it goes."

Lost in the shuffle of players at the top of the leaderboard were Tim Clark and Brett Wetterich.

The duo entered the day tied for the lead at 2-under but quickly fell from contention. Clark bogeyed his first two holes and four of his first five en route to an 8-over 80. Wetterich played the front nine in 6-over, including a triple-bogey at the par-4 third, on his way to an 11-over 83.

Retief Goosen signed for a 2-under 70 - the only red number of the day - to move into a tie for eighth at 6-over 222.

Clark, Phil Mickelson (73), Luke Donald (75) and Jim Furyk (76) also are tied with Goosen at 222. Wetterich dropped into a tie for 23rd at 9-over 225.

The defending champion, Mickelson has not broken par all week, with his best round a 73 in each of the past two days. Six-over at the Masters usually means that you are left with an early tee time on Sunday, not on the fringe of contention.

Mickelson finished his round about three hours before the leaders and he spent some extra time in the scoring hut before emerging to discuss his round. What he saw in there must have been a glimpse of what was to come.

"I know over-par is going to be the winning score," Mickelson said. "Historically in this tournament the winner has come from the final pairing. There's a good chance that somebody that goes off early and posts a good number can possibly take the title this year."

The way things have gone so far, Mickelson may be on to something.

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