Ben Crenshaw, the most improbable player to crack the 36-hole leaderboard, got off to a dismal start in the rain-delayed third round and plummeted out of contention Saturday.
The 54-year-old Crenshaw got in only eight holes before darkness halted play, but that was more than enough to make the two-time Masters champion finally look his age.
A bogey at No. 1. A double bogey at 2. Two more bogeys at 4 and 7. Suddenly, his impressive 1-under score had soared to 4 over -- leaving him 10 strokes behind leader Chad Campbell.
'It was pretty nice conditions, although the air was real heavy,' said Crenshaw, who made the cut for the first time since 1997. 'I just didn't plain execute.'
Crenshaw's worst hole was the par-5 second -- a good birdie chance that should produce a par at worst. He hooked his drive into the trees along the left side of the fairway, an unpardonable mistake that led to David Duval making a quintuple-bogey 10 on Friday.
The ball was playable, so Crenshaw tried to knock it out. But his shot caught a tree, landed in a hazard and forced him to take a one-shot penalty. He finally escaped the woods with his fourth stroke.
'I didn't have any business being over there,' Crenshaw said. 'I was right next to a root and should have just chipped it out sideways. I tried to hit it low enough to get around the root, but it just popped up, hit the tree and went into the creek.'
Jeff Knox felt fine when he stepped to the tee. The second shot was a different matter.
Knox, a member of Augusta National, got a chance to play in the third round of the Masters as a non-competing marker -- someone who evens things out when an odd number of players make the cut.
While his score didn't count, Knox still felt plenty of pressure.
'It was a little nerve-racking,' he said. 'I had a good drive on the first hole, but I couldn't feel my knees or shoulders on the second shot. There were so many people around.'
But Knox knows his way around this course. He holds the club record from the member tees, shooting a 61 in 2003. He picked up a few short putts but figures he would have shot around a 75, making him a worthy partner for PGA Tour regular Jim Furyk.
'I settled down, made some pars and a few bogeys,' Knox said. 'I was just trying to stay out of Jim's way.'
Furyk didn't seem all that thrilled about playing with a marker, but it certainly didn't hurt his round. He shot 68 for his best score of the tournament, got back to even par and even has a glimmer of hope for contending on the final day.
'I was introduced to Jeff this morning,' Furyk said. 'He's a good guy, and I enjoyed his company.'
Knox was runner-up at the 1998 Georgia Amateur Championship and has experience as a Masters marker, also playing a couple of rounds with Craig Stadler in 2003. About a month ago, the club asked Knox if he would play again if needed.
When 47 players made the cut, he was in. Assuming no one drops out, he'll be back to play another 18 holes.
Knox isn't sure who he'll be playing with Sunday -- the rain-delayed third round will be finished Sunday morning -- but knows it won't be Furyk. He doesn't figure to be the first one off after shooting 68.
'He'll be playing with a pro,' Knox said.
The way Mark Hensby started the Masters, it looked as though he would get the weekend off.
No one had a better comeback.
Hensby followed up an opening-round 80 with a 5-under 67 Friday -- equaling the best score of the second round and good enough to make the cut by two strokes. The Australian returned Saturday to shoot a 70, leaving him a respectable 1-over par heading to Sunday's final round.
He's seven strokes behind Chad Campbell, probably too much to make up, but he hopes to finish high enough to clinch a spot in the 2007 Masters.
'I'm gaining some confidence,' Hensby said, 'and hope to finish in the top 16, so I can come back next year.'
Coming back would only be appropriate in this case.
Augusta National will allow USA Network to broadcast the conclusion of the third round Saturday, with coverage starting at 8 a.m. EDT.
Maybe the club learned from last year.
Chris DiMarco had a four-shot lead through nine holes of the third round last year when play was suspended by darkness. When it resumed Sunday morning -- without television -- Tiger Woods tied a Masters record with seven straight birdies and tied his best score at Augusta National with a 65, giving him a three-shot lead.
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