AT THE MASTERS
Wilson and Weir friendly foes in competition
AUGUSTA, Ga. » A lot was made of Dean Wilson and Mike Weir being paired together for yesterday's third round of the Masters, but while they may be good friends off the course, on it, the competition between them is as keen as ever.
Weir did his best to show Wilson around Augusta National on Monday and Tuesday during the practice sessions, and while it was nice sharing each other's company in yesterday's blustery conditions, they didn't exactly tear it up together.
Both bogeyed the first hole, with Weir missing more short putts than Tom Watson. He had 32 putts en route to an 8-over 80 that took him right out of contention. Wilson finished with a 4-over 76 and is five shots off the lead entering today's final 18 holes.
"We play a lot of golf together and we have a lot of good times, but when we're out here we're trying to do the best we can, playing as hard as we can," Wilson said. "We're not out there trying to have laughs. We spend enough time together where we can concentrate for 4 or 5 hours and try to beat our scores."
Weir won the Masters in 2003 and has managed seven tour victories since joining the PGA in 1998. He came to bat for Wilson several years ago when he took exception that the Sony Open in Hawaii didn't extend Wilson a sponsor's exemption to the first full-field event of the year as the golf tournament did for Michelle Wie.
He said earlier in the week that Wilson deserved to be in the Masters after finishing among the top 40 money winners on tour. Wilson has a chance to be invited back next year if he can place among the top 16. He is currently tied for 16th.
Final pairing tells story: Since 1991, the winner of the Masters has come from the final pairing, meaning the odds are that either Tiger Woods or Stuart Appleby will be fitted with a green jacket by day's end.
The last time it didn't happen was in 1990, when Nick Faldo secured the victory in the second-to-last pairing. Appleby will try to become the first Aussie to win the Masters. Those from Down Under have at least one win in the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA. The third-round leader or co-leaders have done well over the last 70 years, going on to win the tournament 40 times. Appleby enters today's final round with a one-shot lead over Woods.
"Look, Tiger has always got an advantage," Appleby said. "It's obscene that he has an advantage. It's quite obvious. You don't have to say, 'Wow, look and see that writer; look, he stepped out on a limb and said Tiger has an advantage.' Yeah, he has more experience than what's left of this field put together.
"What would you like me to say, that I cleaned him up all the time, I'm great at the practice range? I can beat him; I can hit it past him? No, no and no."
Inside the numbers: The toughest third round in Masters history took place in 1956, when no players managed to break par. The only person to do so yesterday was Retief Goosen, who shot a 2-under 70 early in the day. In 1956, three players managed even par and the scoring average was a whopping 78.565. Yesterday's scoring average was still a steady 77.350.
The last time the best score of the day didn't land in the 60s was in 1999. David Duval's 70 was the score that day. The last time no one broke 70 during the third round was in 1966, when Harold Henning and Tommy Jacobs had the low rounds at 70.
One very interesting statistic for those who believe Woods will win today: Woods has come from behind to win 15 times on the PGA Tour, but has never managed that in a major. In his 12 major victories he has either led or shared the lead after 54 holes.
The hardest hole yesterday was the par-4 first. The 455-yard hole played directly into a brutally chilly wind that often gusted to 30 mph with the temperature hovering in the 40s for most of the day. There were only two birdies by Lucas Glover and Stephen Ames, 22 pars, 33 bogeys and three double bogeys.
The easiest hole was the par-5 second with 18 birdies, 33 pars, eight bogeys and one double by Jose Maria Olazabal. There were no eagles in yesterday's round.