AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Trevor Immelman watched one last shot turn out better than he expected Saturday in the Masters, each one keeping him atop the leaderboard and Tiger Woods farther behind.
First came a wedge that spun off the green and rolled down the slope toward the pond in front of the 15th green until it somehow stopped, allowing him to escape with par. Immelman finished with an approach he feared might be too long, only to see it stop 30 inches from the cup on the 18th hole for a final birdie and a 3-under 69.
That gave him a two-shot lead over Brandt Snedeker, two players in their 20s who will get their first taste of major championship pressure in the final group at Augusta National.
Perhaps more importantly, Immelman stayed six shots ahead of Woods.
Under the easiest conditions at Augusta in three years, Woods had to settle for a bogey-free round of 68 that was probably the worst he could have shot. He has never won a major when trailing going into the final round, and he has never won a PGA Tour event when trailing by more than five shots after 54 holes.
“If I had made a few more putts, I’d be right there,” Woods said. “But I’m right there anyway.”
That depends on the four guys in front of him, none of whom has ever won a major.
It starts with Immelman, who was at 11-under 205 on a damp, cloudy afternoon that included a 40-minute delay because of rain.
Snedeker steadied himself after three straight bogeys around Amen Corner, getting those shots back over the final five holes, including a 10-foot birdie on the 18th for a 2-under 70 that put him in the final group.
Steve Flesch was the best Lefty in his pairing with Phil Mickelson, also finishing with a birdie for a 69 to reach 8-under 208. Paul Casey, among four players who had a share of the lead, shot a 69 and was another shot back.
And then there was Woods, the only player within seven shots of the lead who has won a major.
It was the first time in a dozen rounds at the Masters that Woods broke 70, but he had reason to expect much more. The third round began under a light drizzle and was stopped for 40 minutes when storms rolled through eastern Georgia. That made the course soft and long, the greens receptive. With no wind, it was ripe for a charge.
But all Woods could muster was one birdie putt outside 10 feet. Two other birdies came on par 5s when he was putting for eagle, another with a wedge inside a foot on the 17th. Woods missed four straight putts inside 15 feet on the front nine that could have turned his fortunes, and an 8-foot birdie on the par-5 15th.
“This is the highest score I could have shot today,” Woods said. “I hit the ball so well and I hit so many good putts that just skirted the hole. But hey, I put myself right back in the tournament.”
Six shots is a lot to make up in the final round at the Masters. No one has done that since Nick Faldo beat Greg Norman in 1996.
His hope might come from the inexperience atop the leaderboard.