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Masters Separates Contenders Pretenders

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Make way on the Masters leaderboard. Here come Paul Casey and Bernhard Langer - and they're bringing Kirk Triplett and Fredrik Jacobson along for the ride.
Look out below. There go Justin Rose and Jose Maria Olazabal, with Alex Cejka and Charles Howell III right on their heels.
The Masters may not start until the back nine Sunday, but it started taking shape during the pivotal third round. Never was moving day a more appropriate moniker than this Saturday at Augusta National.
Now we know the contenders. Now we know the pretenders.
Rose certainly falls into the latter category. The 23-year-old Englishman led after each of the first two rounds, defying his status as the youngest pro in the field. Alas, he wilted under the bright glare of a Masters weekend, tumbling through the field with a monumental collapse.
Rose bogeyed the first three holes - more bogeys than he had in the first two rounds combined - and it didn't get any better from there. Six more bogeys. Not one birdie. An 81 that tied a tournament record for the worst third-round score by a 36-hole leader.
Only Lee Trevino, who shot 81 in 1989, was ever this bad.
'I said to someone that no matter what happens, today was going to be a great learning experience,' Rose said. 'It's not the end of the world. But it hurts.'
While moving day takes away from some, it gives to others.
Casey, only three years older than his countryman Rose and playing in his first Masters, opened the tournament with a 3-over 75 but has proven to be a quick learner. A 69 Friday kept him alive for the weekend; a 68 Saturday made him a full-fledged contender.
He'll begin the final round just two strokes behind co-leaders Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco.
Casey's pedigree hardly hinted at this sort of performance. In his previous five majors, he missed the cut four straight times before finishing 66th at last year's PGA Championship.
'I just approached this one different than how I approached majors in the past,' Casey said. 'I put too much pressure on myself in the past.'
He invited over some family and friends from England, set up a pingpong table at his house and drove up Magnolia Lane one day with the stereo blaring the 'Caddyshack' soundtrack.
'These are events that every professional golfer would dearly love to win,' Casey said. 'I almost tried too hard. This week, I'm very relaxed. I think I'm approaching things the right way.'
With two green jackets already, Olazabal sure knows his way through the azaleas and Georgia pines. But his local knowledge wasn't very apparent Saturday when the Spaniard staggered to a 79, his worst Masters score since he was a 21-year-old playing the tournament for only the second time in 1987.
Olazabal's iron play was atrocious - he hit only eight of 18 greens in regulation - and he couldn't bale himself out with a putter.
Not a good combination at Augusta.
'I missed a lot of irons and gave myself some difficult positions,' Olazabal said. 'The putting is not working well. That's about it.'
Langer surged into contention for a third Masters title with a 69. He was just three strokes off the lead, giving himself a chance to break Jack Nicklaus' record as the oldest Masters champion.
'That's the great thing about golf,' said the 46-year-old Langer, who is five months younger than Nicklaus was in 1986. 'If you stay in shape, work hard on your game, you can still compete. Jack showed it.'
Cejka was still hanging around until the final hole. He hooked his tee shot into the woods and couldn't find it, forcing him to take a stroke penalty and tee off again.
His fourth shot sailed into the right bunker and he couldn't get up and down, settling for a triple-bogey that left him with a 78.
Howell, who grew up five minutes from Augusta National, would dearly love to add one of those garish green jackets to his outlandish wardrobe. Not this year. He soared to a 76, the lowlight coming at 11 when he curled his approach into the water and took double bogey.
'Obviously, I'd like to go out tomorrow and shoot a low score,' Howell said. 'Gee, I love this place, I love this golf course, I love this tournament.'
Triplett quietly crept into contention. He closed the front side with three straight birdies, finished with a 69 and went to the final day just four strokes back. He's trying to win his first major at age 42.
Sweden's Jacobson, who barely made the cut after a 74-74 start, was only five strokes back after shooting 67 - the best score of the day.
'Certainly, to get in red numbers and shooting the score I did today, I have a chance,' Jacobson said.
That's what moving day is all about.
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - The Masters Tournament
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
  • Masters Photo Gallery
  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters
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