Tiger on quest to Masters glory

2006-04-09 14:25
Augusta - Defending champion Tiger Woods launched a 27-hole march on the final day of the Masters for the second year in a row here on Sunday, hopeful the end of his trek would bring an 11th major title.

Third-round play resumed on Sunday morning after Saturday's storm-interrupted session with Chad Campbell clinging to the lead at six-under par, a stroke ahead of fellow American Rocco Mediate and South African Tim Clark.

Woods lurked three strokes back after playing the front nine Saturday at two-under par, the 30-year-old American sharing fourth with Ireland's Padraig Harrington and 2004 Masters champion Phil Mickelson as the day began.

"Chad is playing great and we have got to go out there and play well," Woods said. "On this golf course, anything can happen."

World number one Woods, the most intimidating player among a leaderboard featuring the world's five top players, has extra motivation because his father Earl, 74, is fighting cancer and too weak to join him here as in past years.

A victory Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club, where Woods won his first major in 1997, would move him alongside Walter Hagen for the second-most major titles in history, seven shy of boyhood idol Jack Nicklaus' all-time record.

Last year, an earlier storm delay forced Woods to play 27 holes on the final day and he proved fit for the challenge, defeating Chris DiMarco on a playoff hole to capture his fourth Masters champion green jacket.

"I'm just going to go and play my game. Last year is last year," Woods said. "I'm conditioned for it. It's just a matter of playing well, executing and making birdies."

Woods was among the first to arrive Sunday morning, working on the putting green in the pre-dawn gloom.

Campbell, playing in the last group with Mediate, opened with two birdies but followed with two bogeys before dusk ended his day, setting up an endurance test on Sunday.

On his heels are Mediate, who has overcome back problems for the rounds of his life this week at 43, and Clark, hoping for a breakthrough triumph after placing third at the 2003 PGA Championship and last year's US Open.

After two opening birdies, Clark made another on the par-4 fifth and a tee shot four feet from the cup on the par-3 sixth just before play was halted.

"I couldn't be more pleased," Clark said. "The way I'm playing certainly bodes well."

Harrington, whose father died after a cancer battle last July, leads the charge of those who could become the first European to win the Masters, or any major, since 1999.

He was at three-under through six holes but three-putted from six feet on the seventh green moments into Sunday's play to fall back to two-under.

Two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen and fellow South African Ernie Els, a two-time US Open and 2002 British Open winner, were among five others on two-under par, sharing seventh.

Joining them four strokes off the pace were American Fred Couples, trying to become the oldest Masters champion at age 46; Canada's Stephen Ames, who won the Players Championship two weeks ago; and 2000 Masters champion Vijay Singh of Fiji.

"I have a long day," Singh said. "I just have to dig down and play hard."

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