Tiger Catches Passes DiMarco at Augusta


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods tied a Masters record with seven straight birdies and surged past Chris DiMarco to take a three-stroke lead into Sunday's final round at Augusta National. Woods shot a 7-under 65, one stroke better than the second-round score that got him back in contention. He opened the tournament with a 74.
'Not bad, huh?' Woods said, smiling. 'It's been a while, hasn't it? Most majors, you're not going to be making a whole bunch of birdies. You're going to be making a bunch of pars.'
DiMarco struggled to a 74 and was at 8 under, followed by Thomas Bjorn, who shot a 71 and was at 7 under. The final round was scheduled to begin around 11 a.m. EDT.
The golfers were back on the course at 8 a.m. Sunday to complete the weather-delayed third round, with DiMarco holding a four-shot lead over Woods.
Within an hour, Woods was on top - and in position for his fourth green jacket. That would tie Arnold Palmer for second-most victories in Masters history; only Jack Nicklaus, with six, has won more.
Woods has played in 10 majors without a win; his last was the 2002 U.S. Open.
DiMarco double bogeyed his first hole of the day, No. 10, and struggled to a 41 on the back side. His performance followed the pair of 67s that put him in the lead after each of the first two rounds.
Woods birdied the final three holes on the front nine Saturday before darkness halted play. He kept it up the next day with four more birdies in a row, capped by a 10-footer at the par-5 13th that drew a defiant pump of his right fist and pushed his score 13 under.
Woods tied the tournament record of seven straight birdies, set by Steve Pate over the same string of holes in 1999.
'We've still got a long ways to go,' Woods said. 'The only reason it was yielding birdies are the greens are soft and the pins are in low spots. You could funnel the ball down to the hole.'
Woods' birdie streak ended at the 14th, when his second shot funneled to the far right side of the green with the flag on the left. He needed three putts to get down, taking his first bogey of the round.
DiMarco, playing one group behind, couldn't take advantage. He also bogeyed 14 to stay two strokes behind.
Woods gave DiMarco another chance at the par-5 15th, hitting a fat 6-iron to the edge of the water, his ball imbedded in the muddy bank. He had to take a drop and wound up with bogey.
But DiMarco followed suit, leaving his ball in a similar spot next to the water. He, too, wound up with bogey.
Woods parred out, while DiMarco dropped another stroke with a bogey at 17.
Woods went to the final round with an 11-under 205, followed by DiMarco (208) and Bjorn (209). Six shots off the pace were defending champion Phil Mickelson and Trevor Immelman. Vijay Singh, the world's top-ranked player, was joined by Mark Hensby at 212.
'I have to put together something really special if I'm going to have a chance,' Mickelson said. 'There's a 65 out there. I don't know if it'll be enough, but that's what I'm going to be gunning for.'
DiMarco's troubles began when his second shot at the 10th went into a bush. He had to take a drop, chipped onto the green and two-putted for the double bogey.
Before that, the only blemish on his card was a first-round bogey on the very same hole, his first hole of the tournament. He then went 44 holes with nothing but birdies and pars - the second longest streak without a bogey in Masters history.
DiMarco is a perennial contender at Augusta, leading five rounds in five years. He played with Mickelson in the final group a year ago, but faded to a 76.
He was paired in the final twosome again, this time with Woods and clinging to a thread of hope.
'Look at Tiger,' DiMarco said. 'He even bogeyed a few coming in. He could have birdied a couple of holes coming in and put everyone out of their misery.'
Woods was hitting his irons brilliantly, leaving himself plenty of birdie chances. He also capitalized on a break with his final shot Saturday.
After teeing off at No. 10, the horn sounded to end play for the day. Woods could have finished the hole, but decided to quit when he saw a big chunk of mud on his ball. That gave him the option of marking the spot with a tee and picking up Sunday with a clean ball.
'It was a no-brainer,' he said. 'It was a great break that they blew the horn. ... When we saw that (mud) down there, it was nice to know I could put the tee in the ground.'
After finishing the third round, everyone got a short break before playing the final 18 holes. There were no problems with the weather, which plagued the first two days of the tournament. It was sunny day, with temperatures expected to climb into the upper 70s.
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