As the Masters Tournament heads down the home stretch, Tiger Woods will not have the lead coming into the final round. Perhaps it just seems that way. ( dpa )
"There's not as many guys ahead of me," Woods, 32, said. "But it all depends on what, obviously, what (the leaders) do, how low they go."
Woods shot a 68 on Saturday, moving to 5-under par for the tournament, moving onto the leaderboard and moving observers to suggest he is in prime striking position.
But, his 13 major championships notwithstanding, Woods has never won a major in which he has not had at least a share of the lead after 54 holes. And, perceptions aside, he will have considerable ground to make up to win this one.
Woods will be six strokes off the pace when play begins on Sunday. South African Trevor Immelman, who started the third round with a one-stroke lead, lost it, re-established it and added to it. By the time he was finished, Immelman had a 3-under 69 for the day and was 11-under for the tournament.
Next in line, and providing a buffer zone between Immelman and Woods, are Brandt Snedeker (9-under), Steve Flesch (8-under) and Paul Casey (7-under). Snedeker, who survived a roller coaster third round of 70 to repeat a final pairing with Immelman, readily acknowledged eyes will be on Woods.
"If he gets off to a great start tomorrow, it's going to be in everybody's head," said Snedeker, 27. "To sit here and say we are not going to be thinking about Tiger Woods tomorrow is crazy because we are just like everybody else in this room, just like everybody else in this world."
Flesch, a lefthander, has four PGA Tour wins in his career. But not many players start winning majors at the age of 40. Still, it is that very doubt that Flesch hopes to feed on.
"I have nothing to lose, nobody expects Steve Flesch to do much in the Masters tournament," he said. "But I have a big heart and I'm a gritty competitor and I want to play well and I'm showing a few of my wares this week."
Casey, 30, has Ryder Cup experience and was a heady second in the 2006 European Order of Merit standings. But, like Immelman, Snedeker and Flesch, Casey has no Masters jackets or major championship wins for reference. What he does have is consecutive rounds of 69.
"I feel very happy about that," Casey said of his last two rounds. "It's probably the best golf I've played around Augusta and I feel very comfortable."
Less than four months removed from having a benign tumor removed from his diaphragm, Immelman has been the chicken-soup story of the week. Could he be more? "You know, I'm going to go out there and play my heart out," he said.
He certainly showed his heart on Saturday. Immelman looked tentative and struggled while giving up the lead early in his round. But he maintained his composure and found some mojo to bounce back with three birdies on the backside. He knows he has more work to do on Sunday.
"There's so many great golfers out there," he said. " If I start resting on a two-shot lead, I'm not going to do very well tomorrow. All I can ask from myself is to just play as hard as I can."