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Masters' final round has the look of a masterpiece

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By Thomas Boswell
Sunday, April 11, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga.

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England's Lee Westwood spoke for who knows how many millions of golf fans all over the world when he said on Saturday evening, "I think this is what everybody wants to see. You've got the No. 4, 3 and 1-ranked players in the world at the top. That's a good Masters leader board."

Actually, it's far more than that. It's almost ridiculous. After a 68 that included only one bogey and featured brilliant ball striking, Westwood leads this Masters at 12-under-par 204, just one shot ahead of Phil Mickelson and four shots in front of Tiger Woods and K.J. Choi. Few tournaments have ever featured more spectacular shot-making than this third round. Few have ever promised more vivid characters or more drama for a final round.

"There were roars going up all over the place. You couldn't figure out who was doing what because there were roars happening simultaneously throughout the course," Mickelson said.

In truth, he was the man who caused most of the damage to eardrums. Only twice before had a man made back-to-back eagles at the Masters. Mickelson came within eight inches of making three in a row, a trifecta of long shots that might have put to shame any 35-minute period in the history of major tournament golf.

After sinking an 10-foot eagle putt at the 13th hole, Mickelson sent a 141-yard wedge shot trickling into the cup at the 14th hole for an eagle 2. Standing in the 15th fairway, watching his 87-yard wedge shot fly dead at the flag then roll directly at the cup, even he could hardly believe what he was watching.

"As it was crossing the hole, I was expecting it to disappear, yeah," said Mickelson, almost in disbelief.

But suspension of disbelief may become the dominant theme of this event by Sunday night. It's not only the return of Woods to golf after his scandal that will rivet record audiences. It may also be unparalleled golf.

"The pins that are left I think are birdie pins," said Mickelson, a two-time Masters champion who should know such things. "We are going to have some excitement tomorrow, a real shootout. There's a lot of guys that are still in this, even though it looks like they are five, six shots back. I think a seven-, eight-under-par [round] will be very possible tomorrow."

That's extremely good news for Woods. Usually, he devours the third round of the Masters when he is near the lead at Augusta National. This time, however, he played exactly as he so often does on Saturday in the major events that he does not win -- fighting his swing or looking confused by the greens. This time, he suffered from both, yet battled to a 70 despite five bogeys and three three-putts.

"I was fighting it all day. I really struggled with the pace of the greens and was fighting my swing. It was a tough day," Woods said.


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