Mon, Apr 12, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Mickelson, DiMarco now share lead

THE MASTERS For all the times Phil Mickelson has contended for that elusive major, he has never gone into the final round with no players in front of him


Tiger Woods watches his shot from a bunker near the 13th hole during the third round of the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, Saturday.


Phil Mickelson salvaged par after hitting into the gallery on the final hole Saturday at the Masters, pumping his fist when his 10-foot putt dropped into the cup for a bogey-free 69 and a share of the lead with Chris DiMarco.

And Tiger Woods is nowhere to be found.

"I did want to be in the final group," Mickelson said. "I did want to be in a position where I didn't have to change my game plan to try to catch anyone. That's the nice thing about being in the lead right now."

Still, this Masters is far from over.

DiMarco is just as hungry for his first major, and he was equally flawless on a tough course that gobbled up 36-hole leader Justin Rose and everyone around him.

DiMarco shot a 4-under 68 and joined Mickelson at 6-under 210.

"He's going to have a lot of pressure on him, too, because he's going to try to get that monkey off there," DiMarco said, referring to Mickelson's 0-for-42 mark in the majors. ``It's going to be fun.''

An Englishman has a chance, too, although it isn't Rose.

Rose stumbled to an 81, the worst score by a 36-hole leader at the Masters since Lee Trevino shot the same score in 1989, and wound up nine shots behind.

Paul Casey picked up the slack with a 68 and was two shots out of the lead.

Experience is right behind them.

Ernie Els, a three-time major winner who craves a green jacket, recovered from a near disaster on the 11th hole to shoot 71. He was at 213, along with two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer (69) and K.J. Choi (72).

"I've been in this position quite a few times, but I've been chasing Tiger," Els said.

That won't be the case today. Woods fell behind from the start, then tumbled out of contention with a double bogey on the par-5 13th. He wound up with a 75 and was nine shots out of the lead.

"I put myself pretty far back going into tomorrow," Woods said, although he refused to count himself out. "If I can get it to even par or under par going into the back nine, I'm right in the ball game. Because as we know, anything can happen on the back nine here."

The attention will be on Mickelson, a supremely talented player with 22 victories on the PGA Tour. Only two other players -- Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper and MacDonald Smith -- have won more often without capturing the four tournaments that matter the most.

Mickelson was close at Pinehurst five years ago in the US Open until Payne Stewart made a 15-foot par putt on the final hole to beat him by one. He was close in Atlanta at the 2001 PGA Championship until David Toms beat him with a par on the final hole.

This will be the seventh time he goes into the final round at a major within two shots of the lead.

But this looks like a new Mickelson. He is in control off the tee, playing from the short grass instead of the trees. Even more impressive is that he has played his last 32 holes without a bogey.

"It's a much easier game when you keep it in play," Mickelson said. "I wish someone had told me this earlier."

DiMarco has some Masters experience to draw from. He was the 36-hole leader three years ago, and kept his composure playing in the final pairing with Woods, shooting 72. DiMarco wound up 10th that year, but learned from it.

"That springboarded me to know I can do bigger and better things," he said.

Even though Rose had a two-shot lead and had played with great confidence over two days, bright sunshine and a crisp breeze made this a day ripe with possibilities.

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