No more retro look for Couples, Jimenez
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Well, that was fun while it lasted.
A day after turning the clock back 20 years and grabbing a share of the lead at the Masters, Freddie Couples looked more suited for the Champions Tour than a green jacket Saturday. The 52-year-old blew up with a 75, and is barely within sight of the leaders going into Sunday's final round.
"My only excuses were some of the swings I made," Couples said. "I actually felt pretty good. I'm tired now, but I felt pretty good."
Playing on the 20th anniversary of his green jacket, the Augusta National fan favorite heard cheers from every corner of the course. Forget these young phenoms. It was the grey-haired guy with the West Coast cool who the fans were pulling for.
"They're yelling for everyone," Couples said. "I wish a couple of them would have come out and played a few shots for me today."
Couples wasn't the only one going in the wrong direction on Moving Day. Jason Dufner, his co-leader after the second round, finished his round with back-to-back bogeys and also signed for a 75. Rory McIlroy, whose green jacket was being measured until his infamous back-nine implosion last year, posted a 42 on the front nine.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, who began the day two strokes off the lead, tumbled out of contention with five bogeys on the front nine.
Of course, nobody had the crowd behind them like Couples.
His day started going downhill with a pair of bogeys on the first two holes. But to hear Couples tell it, it really disintegrated on No. 5, after he hit a wonderful drive into the middle of the fairway. Standing 175 yards from the hole with a 7 iron in hand, he hit a huge hook into the first cut of rough, came up short on the chip and needed three more to get down.
"A 6 from 175 yards in the fairway, that's high school material," Couples said. "And I panicked a little there."
Driving the ball well - he hit 12 of 14 fairways - Couples got back within three shots of the lead with birdies on Nos. 8, 11 and 12. Was he ready to make another run for the ages?
Not really. He missed a 6-footer for birdie on 13 and then, with the leaders starting to make birdies in front of him, he tried to clear the water from 255 yards out on the par-5 15th.
"I was trying to cut it into the bunker" on the right side of the green, Couples said, "and I just kind of hit it straight."
Straight into the water. A few minutes later, he was tapping in for 6 � his third of the day.
"I'm fairly disappointed," Couples said. "I drove the ball really, really well. I stood there with the perfect clubs and I look back, and I see three sixes. That's pretty bad."
Even with that aching back, he has to return Sunday. He said he'll try his best, but he's not trying to build any hope for all those Freddie Fans out there.
"I'm not going to sit here and say I need to shoot a 65. I'm not going to shoot a 65," Couples said. "It would be nice to sit here and tell you that, but I'm going to go out and play my best and certainly shoot better than 75. I'd hope I could do better than that."
NOTHING TO PROVE: Quick! Name the player with the most majors over the last five years.
No, it's not that Tiger Woods guy. Phil Mickelson is a good guess, but it's not him, either.
Try Padraig Harrington, who won back-to-back British Opens in 2007 and 2008, as well as the 2008 PGA Championship.
It may have been a few years since the Irishman won a major � been a while since he's been in contention, really. But he feels no pressure going into Sunday's final round at the Masters, even if he is quietly lurking five strokes behind leader Peter Hanson.
"I don't need to go out there and prove anything tomorrow," Harrington said. "I'm in a great position in that sense. I've won three majors, I'm going to win more majors, so I don't have to do it tomorrow. That's not my one-and-only chance.
"There are players out there who have not won a major who feel like, 'I have to take this chance because they have not come around.' Having won three, I realize that they do actually come around and they will come around. I don't need to panic tomorrow."
Harrington tied for fifth at Augusta National in 2008, but has missed the cut the last two years. He has only one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this year, and that was back in February. Last weekend in Houston, he was 71st.
But even if he's struggling with his game, there's no denying Harrington has talent. After playing the first 11 holes at 1 over, he closed with five birdies in his last six holes.
"I can pick three or four tournaments this year where I've had four or five in a row in six holes in terms of birdies, so I made hay when it was going well," Harrington said. "When things are going well, you have to make birdies. That's very much what Augusta is like. When things are going, take your chances, because you'll get a few which go against you, and you've got to make up for those dropped shots at times."
WESTWOOD STILL IN THE MIX: Lee Westwood, hunting his first major title, still has a "slight sniff" of victory at the Masters after ending Saturday's third round five strokes off the lead.
The British world number three ground out an even-par 72 at Augusta National, briefly holding a share of the lead, but his momentum stalled with untimely bogeys, one of them after a missed putt from just 18 inches at the ninth.
"I didn't quite have it today. I made too many mistakes," Westwood told reporters after offsetting four birdies with four bogeys to post a four-under total of 212. "That was a bad bogey at nine, missed a short one left.
"I bogeyed some holes that should have been birdie and missed a couple of short putts.
"But four under with the lead at nine still has a slight sniff, if I get it going early on and make a few birdies. I'm just going to hit a few balls now and find a bit of a swing."
Westwood, who has six times finished in the top three at majors, was especially frustrated by his bogeys at the par-three 12th and the par-five 13th.
"Those were bad bogeys," said the 38-year-old, who led by one shot after shooting a five-under 67 in Thursday's opening round. "One of them you're trying to birdie, the 13th, and the 12th is the easiest flag.
"I wasn't hitting it too solid today which makes it difficult if you haven't got the distance control."
Westwood, who finished second here in 2010 when he also opened with a 67, was reminded of the storming four-birdie finish by South African Charl Schwartzel to win last year's Masters.
"This golf course gives you a chance if you're playing well," the Briton said. "You've got the par-fives, especially the par-fives on the back nine. They've got the flags set so you can make a couple of eagles."
Westwood lies joint sixth going into Sunday's final round, five shots behind pacesetting Swede Peter Hanson and four adrift of three-times champion Phil Mickelson.
OOSTHUIZEN IN POSITION: Louis Oosthuizen is already a proven major winner and he steadily moved into a good position to clinch this week's Masters title without getting the very best out of his game in Saturday's third round.
The gap-toothed South African, who romped to a seven-stroke victory in the 2010 British Open, fired a three-under-par 69 at Augusta National to end a gorgeous day of sunshine two shots behind leader Peter Hanson of Sweden.
"I just played nicely today," Oosthuizen told reporters after mixing five birdies with two bogeys. "I made a good score, swung the club really well. It was just nice having a good round.
"I felt I probably left quite a few birdies out there the way I was hitting it. I'm happy to be two behind going into Sunday."
Though Oosthuizen bogeyed the final hole after pushing his approach to the right of the green and failing to get up and down, he can take comfort in the way he has played the testing back nine this week.
In each of the first two rounds, the 29-year-old covered the last nine holes in three-under 33. On Saturday, he came home in one under, having birdied the 12th and 17th.
"You have got to take it shot for shot," Oosthuizen said of his strategy for Sunday's final round when the year's first major will be on the line.
"You know it's going to take a few birdies (to win), so I'll probably do the same as today, just pick my holes where I feel like I can take the pin on.
"It's what we play for, ... to have a chance at winning a major going into Sunday. I put myself in a position for this week and it'll just be fun to go out there and try to play the best I can."
Oosthuizen, who showed good form at last week's Houston Open where he finished third, relished the electric atmosphere at Augusta National on Saturday afternoon as players continually sank birdie putts across the course.
"It was great today," he said. "You could hear the roars all over the place. So it was really nice to be out there and I think it's going to be the same tomorrow."