AUGUSTA, Ga. — A Commodore and a duck share the lead going into the final round of the Masters, but it was talk of a Tiger on Saturday that threatened to swamp the whole thing.
Ex-Vanderbilt golfer Brandt Snedeker and former Masters champion Angel Cabrera — nicknamed “El Pato,” or The Duck, in his native Argentina — both shot 69s to take a one-stroke lead on Australia’s Adam Scott at 7-under-par 209.
Down the leaderboard in a tie for seventh is four-time champion Tiger Woods, whose hopes for a fifth green jacket may have been derailed by a controversial penalty.
Woods’ wedge on the 15th hole in Friday’s second round struck the pin and caromed back into the pond fronting the green. Woods dropped, then hit another wedge to 3 feet and salvaged a bogey 6. But two TV viewers called in to say they thought Woods dropped too far back. Woods himself admitted in a post-round ESPN interview that he dropped 6 feet back of where he first hit.
Masters Competition Committee Chairman Fred Ridley said Woods violated Rule 26 of the USGA Rules of Golf, part of which requires a player to drop as near as possible to his original spot. But because rules officials first reviewed Woods’ drop and didn’t find an infraction, Ridley cited USGA Rule 33, which saved Woods from disqualification. He was assessed a two-strong penalty instead.
Although some former players and TV analysts called for Woods to withdraw, he played on, shooting a 70 to wind up at 3-under 213.
It is from there that Woods will begin his quest for a 15th major championship — and first come-from-behind major victory.
“Under the rules of golf, I can play,” Woods said. “Once I came to the golf course, I was ready to play.”
No one played better down the stretch than Snedeker, who birdied 13, 15 and 16 to finish 7-under.
Snedeker won the 2012 FedEx Cup and started strongly this season with a win and two second-place finishes, but he was forced to sit out for five weeks with a rib injury.
“It’s been two seasons, I guess, is the best way to put it,” Snedeker said. “I was healthy — playing great, nothing wrong. Then I got hurt, and I had to start pretty much from scratch again. So (I’m) getting that feeling back, the momentum back, like early in the year.”
Cabrera, who won the 2009 Masters and 2007 U.S. Open, came to Augusta with virtually no momentum. Ranked No. 269 in the world, Cabrera’s best finish this season was a tie for 16th in Houston two weeks ago.
But there’s something about the Masters that seems to transform him. This is the third time since 2009 that he will play in the final group.
“In 2009, I was nervous, anxious,” said Cabrera, who birdied No. 18 to tie Snedeker. “But now I’m very comfortable. I know what I’ve got to do to be able to get the win.”
A trio of Australians — Scott and Marc Leishman at 6-under, second-round leader Jason Day at 5-under — are right behind the leaders. An Australian has never won the Masters.
Saturday was a day of mounting frustration for former LSU golfers David Toms and John Peterson.
Toms got off to a wild start with four birdies and four bogeys in his first 10 holes before bogeying four of the next six to shoot 76 and wind up at 4-over 220.
“I didn’t drive it well today,” he said. “I had a lot of long shots in and couldn’t hold the greens. It got to where I was trying to catch up. When you get a couple over, you try to shoot for pins you’re not supposed to shoot at.”
Peterson birdied Nos. 3 and 13, the latter with a nifty bunker shot to a tightly guarded pin, but finished bogey-bogey to shoot 74. He’s at 6-over 222 and highly perplexed by Augusta National’s massively contoured greens.
“You think it’s going to break, and some of them look like they break uphill,” he said. “Veterans definitely have an advantage having played 10 or 15 years out here.”
Peterson tees off at 9:20 a.m. CDT paired with Englishman David Lynn. Toms tees off a half-hour later with 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover.