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Weir falters, Tiger charges

Third-round scores
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Saturday at The Masters was a show-stopper,
all right.

At least inside the gates of Augusta National.

Tiger Woods electrified a massive gallery that stood
shoulder-to-shoulder to watch his amazing turnaround -- one putt
away from cleaning out his locker to a familiar charge that left
him on the cusp of the greatest comeback in Masters history.

Jeff Maggert, on the brink of collapse, birdied five of his six
last holes for a 6-under 66 and grabbed a two-shot lead, his first
ever going into the final round of a major.

Vijay Singh chipped in for birdie and almost aced the 16th.

David Toms soared into contention with three straight birdies.
Phil Mickelson raised hopes of winning that elusive major with
three crucial pars.

''This is a position you dream about,'' Maggert said after his
6-under 66, matching Woods for the best score of the third round.

Martha Burk could only dream of such attention.

The real rally belonged to Woods.

Woods was among those who feared this Masters might turn into a
zoo because of all the protests against Augusta National's all-male
membership.

He was close. There was an inflatable pig at Burk's
demonstration a half-mile down the road from Magnolia Lane, but not
much of a stink.

The buzz came from the players, not the protesters.

In a grassy 5.1-acre lot, Burk and about 40 supporters rallied
for their cause. They were far outnumbered by police and media.

''You've got to make a choice -- is it discrimination or is it
dollars?'' Burk said, threatening to boycott companies whose
executives belong to the club. ''Today we are protesters with
placards. Tomorrow, women will protest with their pocketbooks.''

Maybe not Sunday. A ticket to The Masters should command top
dollar.

No one has ever won three straight Masters. No one has ever
trailed by 11 shots after 36 holes and gone on to win at Augusta
National.

None of this seemed plausible when Woods stood behind a small
pine tree in the ninth fairway on his final hole of the second
round. He managed to squeeze a shot under the shoulder-high
branches and scratch out a par just to make the cut.

That was only the appetizer on a spectacular day of sunshine and
golf.

Maggert has won only once in the previous nine times he led
going into the final round, and there were plenty of stars lurking
behind -- Woods the most daunting.

''If you look at the leaderboard now, it would be tough to say
that's not one of the players you've got to worry about,'' Maggert
said. ''But I've struggled so much with my golf game ... it's
helped me focus on the golf course.''

He was at 5-under 211, one of only seven players who remain
under par.

Mike Weir, who had a six-stroke lead at one point, staggered
home with a 39 on the back for a 3-over 75 and was at 213, with
Singh (70) and Toms (70) another stroke back.

Cheers crisscrossed Augusta National, but they were never far
from Woods.

He started the third round at 5 over par with 42 players in
front of him. When he played the last of his 26 holes Saturday, he
was in a tie for fifth.

Woods practically called the shot.

''If I can be even par or under par, I'll be right where I need
to be,'' he said after walking off the ninth green, relieved to
have made his 102nd consecutive cut.

He is right there, four strokes and four players separating him
from slipping on the green jacket for the third straight year.

While Woods commanded most of the attention, he was among 16
players within six shots of the lead going into the final round.

Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, a forgotten man
in golf this year, quietly crept into contention with a 71 and also
was at 1-under 215.

Len Mattiace (69), Jim Furyk (71) and Jonathan Byrd (71), who
grew up about 30 miles away in South Carolina and is playing his
first Masters, were at 216.

As usual, Amen Corner was up to its old tricks.

Woods finally found some momentum at No. 11 by holing a 50-foot
birdie putt that made a left turn as it got to the hole and
dropped. On the par-5 13th, his second shot somehow stayed out of
the water and he chipped close for birdie.

Others weren't so fortunate.

U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes, the first amateur in 42
years to play in the final two groups on the weekend at The
Masters, was at 2 under and zeroing in on the lead when he took
double bogey on the 12th.

Barnes shot 40 on the back for a 75 and was at 2-over 218.

Weir paid a steep price. His approach to the 11th plugged into
the side of the hill inside the hazard line, and he played a
delicate shot to limit the damage to a bogey. Two holes later, he
went for the 13th green and landed in Rae's Creek to make another
bogey.

The tenacious Canadian is far from out of it. He has trailed
going into the final round in all five of his PGA Tour victories,
two of them earlier this year.

Maggert was a victim, too, when he took double bogey on No. 11.
With quiet confidence, he struck back quietly.

His birdie blitz might have been a real show-stopper if Maggert
had not three-putted for par on the 15th. Still, he hit his tee
shot to 5 feet on the par-3 16th, made the first birdie of the
round on No. 17 from 15 feet and closed out his 66 with a 20-foot
birdie.

The tone was set early, when 75 players returned to complete the
second round under blazing blue skies.

For a while, it appeared as though history might be revisited.

A three-putt bogey from 25 feet on No. 8 put Woods on the verge
of missing the cut, just as Jack Nicklaus did in 1967 when he was
trying to win his third straight Masters.

Woods was 5 over -- right on the cut line -- when he sprayed his
drive behind a pine tree that blocked his path to the green. He hit
a waist-high shot that ran up the slope and dropped into a bunker,
then calmly blasted out to 3 feet above the hole.

If he missed, his chances were over.

''That putt was either going in or going off the green,'' Woods
said.

He powered it in the right side for perhaps the most important
par he has ever made at The Masters.

Weir finished with a 68 and had a four-stroke lead after 36
holes, the first time a Canadian has been in the lead at the
Masters since Stan Leonard in 1959.

The sun was out, big names lit up the scoreboard, and the
Masters finally felt like its old self after a week of rain. Though
the protest site was a short walk down the road from Magnolia Lane,
it seemed so far away.

''Do you think any of these people care what's going on out
there?'' Nicklaus said. ''That's the bottom line. None of these
people really care what's going on outside the gates of this club.
Come on. It's a golf tournament.''

And by the look of it Saturday, not just any tournament.