AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ian Poulter made a move at the Masters on Saturday.
Only it wasn’t in the right direction.
Beginning the day with a share of the lead, Poulter took a tumble down the scoreboard with a 2-over 74. He’s at 6-under, six strokes behind good friend and second round co-leader Lee Westwood.
“Not obviously what I was after,” the Englishman said. “I’m a few shots adrift of where I wanted to be. I’m not overly happy right now.”
Poulter once boasted he would rival Tiger Woods when he reached his potential, and it seemed like that time had finally come in the first two rounds. He played almost perfectly, bogeying only three holes out of the first 36 and working his way around Augusta National with calm confidence.
The only thing missing were his colorful – some call them loud or garish – outfits.
But Poulter never got in a rhythm Saturday. He followed back-to-back bogeys with back-to-back birdies and finished the front nine at even par. He made bogey on 11 and double-bogeyed the par-3 12th after a terrible lie in the bunker.
“I really had no shot,” Poulter said. “There was no sand at the front of the bunker. I’m on the downslope and I had no shot.”
He did birdie 13, but couldn’t make up any more ground on Westwood.
Or anyone else, for that matter, with Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and even the seemingly ageless Fred Couples making charges Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve got a chance,” said Poulter, who is tied for sixth. “You saw what guys were doing on the golf course today. There was roars all around the golf course, eagles are being made, second shots being holed. This golf course can give up eagles quite easily. I’m just going to have to go out there and play well.”
COMING AROUND: Jerry Kelly was just telling his wife Friday night that he knew his game was about to come around.
Boy was he right.
Kelly shot a 67 on Saturday, matching Phil Mickelson for low score of the day. It was Kelly’s lowest score in 25 rounds at Augusta National, besting his second-round 69 in 2007.
“I feel like I’m two shots better than I used to be. Not like you’re going to play two shots better everywhere, but if I make some putts, I’m going to be able to shoot some lower rounds than I ever have in all the different spots,” Kelly said. “I told my wife last night, ‘It’s coming. One of these weeks, something really good’s going to happen.’ So it’s working in the right direction.”
Back problems forced Kelly to withdraw from the Sony Open earlier this year. He returned three weeks later and missed the cut at the Northern Trust Open, and has been trying to get his game back where he wanted it ever since. He’s had some low scores – he shot 65 in the second round at the Honda Classic – but has yet to finish in the top 10.
But he felt good all day Saturday, and made six birdies in an eight-hole span.
“I just feel great about my game,” Kelly said. “It’s still loose compared to what I know can happen throughout an entire day, butt it’s showing me more and more all the time, which is great.”
PLAY IT AGAIN: Y.E. Yang had the best seat in the house for Phil Mickelson’s show at the Masters.
Yang was paired with Mickelson on Saturday, the fifth straight round they’ve played together, going back to last weekend in Houston. Mickelson made up four shots on Lee Westwood in just two holes, making an 8-foot eagle putt on the 13th and holing out a wedge on the 14th.
“I’ve gotten used to him. … He makes players comfortable,” said Yang, the PGA champion. “Fortunately for me today I was in a good area, good seat, to watch him play some incredible golf. So I was in spectator mode today.”
It might have inspired Yang a little, too. After a bogey on 12 left him at 3 over for the day, Yang worked his way back to even par, closing the round with a 33-foot birdie putt.
Yang is tied for ninth at 5 under, seven shots behind leader Lee Westwood.
“The goal is still the same,” Yang said, “finish in the top 10.”
YANI VISIT: Yani Tseng is emotionally exhausted from picking up her second LPGA major last week at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. What better place to recharge the batteries than Augusta National.
Yani drove up from Orlando, Fla., to watch the third round of the Masters. She was a popular figure under the oak tree behind the clubhouse, doing a number of interviews with Asian television.
“I like to spend time here, just sit on the grass. It’s so beautiful,” Yani said.
She first came to the Masters last year to support fellow Taiwanese player Lin Wen-Tang. She is pulling for everyone this week, although her loyalty lies with her home club in Orlando – Lake Nona – so give the nod to Ian Poulter.
Her biggest hope is to return to Augusta National with her golf clubs.
“I really want to play here,” she said.
STAR POWER: Actor Mark Wahlberg was riding around Augusta National when he spotted swing guru Butch Harmon.
“Want a ride?” he called out.
“No,” Harmon said initially. “Aren’t you a little young to be sitting your butt in a golf cart?”
Wahlberg chuckled and Harmon relented, climbing onto the back. The teacher had been following student Phil Mickelson on the front nine, and after watching Lefty tee off on No. 8, Harmon rode as far as No. 9 before hopping off and heading toward the green.
“We’ve been working together,” Wahlberg said.
Some of that work was in preparation for Wahlberg’s appearance in the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge. The actor will join hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, Super Bowl-winning New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the magazine’s contest winner in trying to break 100 at Pebble Beach ahead of the U.S. Open in June.
DIVOTS: Phil Mickelson joined Dan Pohl (1982) and Dustin Johnson (2009) as the only players to make consecutive eagles at Augusta National. Pohl went on to lose to Craig Stadler in a playoff, and Johnson finished in a tie for 30th. … Ernie Els will likely go another year without winning a green jacket. He’s at 3 over after a 75 on Saturday. … Chad Campbell couldn’t sustain the momentum from Friday’s round, when he rallied to make the cut with a 68. He shot 80 on Saturday.
AP Sports Columnist Jim Litke and AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.