Weather became the determining factor in Master's tournament

Posted: Sunday, April 09, 2000

The colder and windier it got at the Augusta National Golf Club, the more quality golf shots Vijay Singh produced Saturday.

You'd never know Singh was born and grew up in the Fiji Islands the way he played in the weather-delayed third round of the 64th Masters Tournament.

Singh, the leader on the course through 50 holes by three shots, birdied two of his final four he completed before play was called because of darkness at 7:45 p.m.

He'll pick up his round this morning at 8:15, facing a third shot to the par-5 15th hole.

After the third round is completed, new pairings will be made for the final round with the first starting time being 10:05.

The last time players had to come back on Sunday to complete the third round was 1992.

On a brutal day that produced winds of 20-30 mph that gusted to 42 mph and temperatures dropped into the low 50s in the late afternoon, Singh is the leader on the course at two-under-par through 14 holes and seven-under-par for the tournament.

He leads playing partner David Duval by three shots. Duval, the second-round leader, is one-over-par for the third round.

Singh, the No. 8-ranked player in the world, birdied No. 12 with a short putt and then added another birdie on No. 14, making a tap-in putt. For the day, Singh made four birdies (Nos. 2, 8, 12 and 14 and two bogeys (No. 4 and 11).

Singh opened with rounds 72-67 while Duval had 73-65. If they par in today, Singh would shoot at 70 and Duval a 73.

Singh called the weather conditions ``terrible. It was cold and windy. If it was just windy, I think we could have handled it a little bit easier.

Late in the day, Augusta National officials announced that play would be suspended at 7:45 p.m. Golfers had the option to complete the hole they were on at that time. Roberts, playing No. 18, chose to finish. Singh and Duval decided to wait until this morning to complete the 15th hole.

``I don't know how I handled it,'' Singh said of the weather. ``I was freezing out there playing No. 14. I was hoping they'd call it earlier. I couldn't wait for it to be called off. It was probably one of the coldest rounds I've played in a long time.''

Three other twosomes did not finish their rounds. Of those six players, Phil Mickelson is two-under for the tournament, Tom Lehman is one-under and Jeff Sluman and Bernhard Langer are one-over.

Loren Roberts, who had 71 Saturday, is the leader in the clubhouse at 3-under-par 213 or four shots behind Singh. Also at three-under-par for the tournament with three holes to play is Ernie Els, who is two-over-par for the day.

Three golfers are in the clubhouse at 1-under-par for the tournament, including Tiger Woods and Davis Love III, who shot 68s. Mike Weir had a 70.

Singh is a 37-year-old whose work ethic is such that he is normally the last person on the practice range each day. It is that commitment that has helped him win eight times on the PGA Tour, including one major title, the 1988 PGA Championship.

``I played well,'' Singh said. ``I said all week I was hitting the ball good. I've still got a lot of holes to play. I'm not thinking about the lead as much as I should. I want to go out and hit solid shots like I did today and hopefully the outcome will be in my favor.''

The weather conditions were so brutal that only five of the 49 golfers who finished their rounds broke par for the day. Singh is the only golfer left on the golfer under par for his third round.

``It was trying,'' Duval said of the weather. ``It was very, very nasty and difficult as the scores from this afternoon are reflective of that. I've played well and Vijay has played exceptionally well.''

Singh's only run at a green jacket in six appearances came in 1996 when he was in ninth place after three rounds, four shots off Greg Norman's 54-hole lead. Singh shot a final-round 82 to finish tied for 39th.

Singh and Duval, off in the last group, didn't tee off until 4 p.m,. played in the worst of the weather. By the end of the day, golfers were bundled as temperatures dropped to the mid-50s.

Singh and his pursuers will be seeking the $828,000 first-place money from a $4.6 million purse. First-place money in 1999 was $720,000 from a $4 million purse.

Overnight temperatures in the 30s were predicted for Saturday night. The weather won't be much warmer when the final 12 golfers head out at 8:15 this morning.

``I'm not going to feel sorry for them,'' Love said. ``In the course of playing major championships, sometimes you get funny draws and it doesn't work out quite right. These guys aren't happy about their situation and I don't blame them. But that's the way things go.''

``It's not a big deal,'' Duval said. ``It's a small price to pay to have a chance to win this golf tournament.''

``If the wind's not blowing in the morning, it will be to our favor,'' Singh said.

Love, seeking to become the first Georgian to win the Masters since Larry Mize in 1987, has been a runnerup here in 1995 and 1999.

``I want to win this tournament just like any other major, but I want to win this one very badly,'' said Love, who has one major title, the 1997 PGA Championship. ``I've come in playing well lots of times and I haven't quite gotten the job done when I know I'm playing well enough to do it.''

Fans hoping to see 60-year-old Jack Nicklaus defy the years and contend for a seventh Masters title were sadly disappointed Saturday. Nicklaus, six shots off the lead after opening rounds of 74-70, had his highest round in Masters history on Saturday, an 81. Nicklaus, whose worst round had been a 79 in 1967, now trails by Singh by 16 shots.

Mickelson and Duval are a combined zero-for-51 in major championships. Mickelson, 29, has played in 30 major championships while the 28-year-old Duval has played in 21. Both have second place finishes (Duval in the 1998 Masters and Mickelson in the 1999 U.S. Open).

At the end of their career, most golfers are judged by the number of major championships they won, no matter how many regular tour events they've won. Mickelson has 15 tour titles, including two this year, while Duval has 11.

``I believe it's probably what a lot of the players want to accomplish in their career,'' Duval said of winning majors. ``It doesn't mean they're not successful, not necessarily. They won't be considered one of the great players, probably.''

When Woods reeled off birdies on Nos. 7-10 on Saturday, it brought him back to even-par for the tournament for the first time since the third hole on Thursday.

It was the first time since his winning year of 1997 that Woods shot in the 60s here. He shot 71-72-72-70 -- 285 to finish tied for eighth in 1998 and 72-72-70-75 -- 289 to tie for 18th in 1999.

Woods has already come back from a seven-shot deficit with seven holes to play to win at Pebble Beach this year.

``I know Nick (Faldo) came back from six shots down and won by a few (in 1996) so you never know around this golf course,'' Woods said. ``As long as you're under par right now (for the tournament), you've got a good chance of winning.''

The greatest final-round comeback by a champion in Masters history is nine shots, by Jack Burke in 1956.

``Paul Lawrie proved that last year at the British Open by making up 10 shots in one day that anything can happen in a major championship,'' Woods said.

``People have gone low here and shot 63s,'' Woods said. ``You just need one of those magical days to do that.''

``If the wind stays up, hopefully, I'll have a good chance,'' Woods said.

Duval is brimming with confidence despite being winless for the last 53 weeks.

He said he hit mishit one shot on Saturday, his tee shot on No. 14. The shot he hit into the water on No. 12, where he made double bogey, was knocked down by a gust of wind.

Unlike 1999, when he said he'd take the field against himself as the favorite, this year he said the tournament was his to win or lose.

``I've been working hard trying to make sure everything falls into place this week and I believe I'm going to be successful in that,'' Duval said.

An extensive fitness regime, undertaken during the offseason, has helped Duval lose 25 pounds, strengthen his body and build his endurance. It will help today when he has to play what amounts to 21' holes.

``I certainly gain confidence from that (his fitness) and I think that is nothing but beneficial to me,'' Duval said. ``I believe come Sunday afternoon the fact that I believe I'm in good shape can pay off. I'll be more refreshed than other people and my strength will still be high, and that's a lot of focus of why I was doing that stuff.''

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