Defending Champion Tied For 7th Going Into Round 4

Defending Masters champion Zach Johnson, hitting a shot on the first fairway at Augusta National, carded a 68 in the third round to finish at 2-under-par 214.
Defending Masters champion Zach Johnson, hitting a shot on the first fairway at Augusta National, carded a 68 in the third round to finish at 2-under-par 214. (By David J. Phillip -- Associated Press)
By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 13, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga., April 12 -- Defending Masters champion Zach Johnson was not at all pleased with a 4-over-par 76 in the second round that left him just a shot clear of the cut line and tied for 29th place. Before he teed off Saturday, his wife, Kim, told him to go out and shoot 65, and while he didn't go quite that low, his third-round 68 left him in a far more respectable position entering the final round.

"I thought if I could post a good number, you never know where it could take me," said Johnson, who added that his approach hasn't changed since last year, when he laid up on all the par 5s and played them in 11 under par for the week.

On Saturday, he played them in 2 under in a round that included a front-nine 32 and five birdies, and by day's end, he was tied for seventh place at 2-under 214. Last year, under much more difficult conditions of wind and cold, Johnson was 4 over after 54 holes and shot 69 on Sunday to finish at 1-over 289, matching the highest winning score in tournament history.

"I just play what the golf course gives me, and that's the way I've tried to approach it," he said. "I mean, Sunday might be a different entity in its own right."

And the difference between his 76 Friday and the Saturday 68?

"I think I might have looked at the leader board a few too many times; that might have been one thing," he said. "This game is all about momentum, and when you make a bogey as your first [score] other than a par and don't make some putts early on, it's hard to get it back on a course of this stature."

For Amateur, a Matter of Honor

Michael Thompson, one of only three amateurs in the field, failed to make the cut Friday but made an honorable name for himself after calling a one-shot penalty on himself when his ball moved slightly after he grounded his putter and was about to attempt a 15-footer for birdie at the 15th green.

The ball moved ever so slightly before he made contact, and Thompson, runner-up in the U.S. Amateur and a senior at Alabama, backed off and immediately called over a rules official and his playing partners, Ben Crenshaw and Nick O'Hern to tell them what happened.

Thompson, at the time 4 over and only a shot off the cut line, then missed the putt and made bogey. He also bogeyed 16 and 17, shot 78 and ended the tournament at 7-over 151, four shots over the cut.

"Don't dismiss lightly what he did out there," Crenshaw said. "He's a true gentleman."

Said Thompson: "It's just part of the game. You've got to follow the rules. It doesn't matter how you're playing or what's going on."

Troubling No. 18 for Furyk

Jim Furyk's problems at the 18th hole in the first two rounds likely cost him a chance to win his first Masters.

Furyk bogeyed the hole Thursday, then made double bogey there Friday when his drive landed in pine straw down the left side. He slipped on the slick surface on his second swing and his next shot from in front of a greenside bunker left him with a 25-footer. Three putts later he had double bogey and was at 3-under after 36 holes.

Furyk finally parred the hole Saturday but was unable to make up any ground with an indifferent round of 73 and was at even-par 216 for the tournament, 11 shots off the lead.

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