Despite all the rain and muck, and confusion when the third round was delayed 20 minutes by a computer glitch, the Masters finally came to life.
Woods brought the gallery to its feet with an assortment of shots that stopped close to the hole. He shot 31 on the front nine and was at 9 under par. And after a first round filled with bad breaks, Woods got one in his favor at the end of the day. His ball was caked with mud when the siren sounded, so he marked his position in the 10th fairway, allowing him to start Sunday with a clean ball.
Thomas Bjorn was at 8 under par, and no one else was close.
Vijay Singh and a pair of Australians, Rod Pampling and Mark Hensby, were at 4 under par. Mickelson was another shot behind - but 10 shots behind DiMarco, who still has control of this major championship.
The Masters usually doesn't begin until the back nine Sunday afternoon. This time, it will start Sunday morning. The third round was to resume at 8 a.m. EDT.
'I kind of wish we could play some more, but that's OK,' DiMarco said.
Right when Woods started to make his move, DiMarco answered with a slick 10-footer for birdie on the seventh, and another 10-foot birdie on the eighth. He played smartly, taking chances only when they were there.
'If Chris keeps playing the way he is, he's going to be very difficult to catch,' Bjorn said. 'It's fine golf.'
Bjorn, however, is a friend of Woods and has seen some of his best golf. The Dane saw plenty of it on the front nine Saturday afternoon playing in the group behind him, and he was duly impressed.
'Tiger is Tiger,' Bjorn said. 'When he gets on these kind of runs, you never know what's going to happen.'
DiMarco must feel like it's his time.
He keeps putting himself in contention at the Masters - the second round was his fifth time atop the leaderboard in the last four years. He lost in a playoff in the last major he played, the PGA Championship in August.
Woods had some good omens, too, one involving the man whose major championship record he chases.
He won the last PGA Championship and U.S. Open that Jack Nicklaus played, both in 2000. He also won the British Open, which, at the time, Nicklaus said was his last.
The Golden Bear said farewell to the Masters on Saturday.
The six-time winner of the green jacket walked up the ninth fairway with cheers from the crowd and tears welling up in his eyes. After shooting 76-77 to miss the cut, he said he would no longer player.
Nicklaus has always been about competition, not ceremony.
'I'm not a golfer anymore,' Nicklaus said. 'They're young. I'm an old man trying to figure out some way to get out of the way.'
He cleared the way for what should be a dynamic conclusion.
Woods, who has gone 10 majors without winning, looked like an eight-time major winner as he started chipping away at a six-shot deficit. DiMarco refused to blink, hitting fairways and greens, gritting his teeth with every putt he made.
'I kept telling myself I was hitting good shots, but nothing happened,' Woods said. 'Just hang in there, and keep hitting quality shots and it will turn. Luckily, it turned.'
DiMarco only has three PGA Tour victories, none particularly memorable. But he has raised his game at the majors, particularly at Augusta National. When his birdie putt on the 18th stayed just short of the hole, DiMarco had a 67 and the 36-hole lead at the Masters for the second time in four years.
He had a two-shot lead in 2001 and crumbled playing with Woods.
DiMarco gave himself a bigger cushion Saturday, and only two closing birdies by Bjorn kept him from setting a Masters record for the largest halfway lead - five shots by three players, all of whom went on to win.
'I have to go out and ... stay focused and control my nerves,' DiMarco said before his third round. 'We've only played 36. We have a lot of golf left.'
DiMarco kept a comfortable cushion for most of the second round, then poured it on. He was just over the green on the par-5 15th in two and eased the slick putt down to 3 feet for birdie. Then came a 7-iron below the hole to 12 feet, kicking back his left leg as that dropped for birdie.
The ovations got louder as he walked off every tee, his lead stretching with every birdie.
Bjorn got himself into contention at a major for the first time since his bunker gaffes cost him the British Open two years ago at Royal St. Georges. He became the ninth player to eagle both par 5s on the back nine, and his two birdies at the end gave him a 67.
Woods didn't figure to work his way into the mix, not after opening with a 74 and cursing the first shot he hit from the fairway. But he birdied the first two holes he played Saturday morning, and kept his round going with a par on No. 6 by chipping off the top tier of the green to avoid the severe slope.
A birdie on the ninth put him under par for the first time. Two-putt birdies on both par 5s on the back nine carried him to a 66, the first time in two years at a major he had the low score in a round.
The cut was at 4-over 148, and led to an early departure for Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and David Toms. It almost got Ernie Els, too.
The Big Easy is the only player from the Big Four missing from the leaderboard, and he had to make a bending 10-footer for par on the 18th hole to make the cut on the number.
'This is disappointing,' Els said, a major understatement.
Worse yet, a computer problem with 36-hole scores kept Masters officials from posting tee times. In what looked like a Saturday at the local municipal course, officials told players on the putting green when it was their turn to play until tee times could be printed.
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