Throughout this week, ESPN.com golf editor Jason Sobel will be live-blogging from the Masters, bringing you inside information and analysis from Augusta National Golf Club. Refresh this page often to keep track of all the entries during each round.
2:30 p.m.: Back by popular demand ... welcome to Day 3 of the Masters live blog. It is chilly and blustery here in Augusta, with a high of 57 degrees and 20-25 mph winds -- and the gusting kind, which are tougher to calculate than when they're consistent. The parking attendant in the media lot was so bundled up I mistook him for a ninja.
Going to be an absolutely brutal day on the course, which should make it a fun watch. I was going to start out the day with this prediction: No one will shoot better than even-par 72 today ... but Retief Goosen has already killed that idea, as he's shooting a brilliant 3-under round through 16 holes so far.
That said, I'll amend the prediction to say: Very, very few players will shoot par or better. And perhaps an even stronger prediction: Not one player will be in red numbers when the day is over. Count on it.
2:34 p.m.: Quick update on some big names who have teed off already (the leaders go out at 3 p.m.):
• As I said, Goosen is 3-under (now through 17), which I can almost guarantee will hold up as the round of the day. Too bad he started so far back, as he made the cut on the number.
• Tiger Woods just made a pretty brilliant par save on No. 5. He's 1-under right now for the day. Time to make a move?
• Phil Mickelson just made the turn at even-par through the day. Was at 1-under for a while, but bogeyed the eighth.
• David Toms is 2-under through seven.
I know, I know. Sounds like pretty good scores for such tough conditions. But trust me; par is going to feel like 67 today.
2:40 p.m.: So how windy is it? Well, very. But it's not a consistent wind, by any means. I spent about 30 minutes on the range at nearby Augusta Country Club this morning. Tossed a few pieces of grass into the air and they blew away from me and to the left. But the flags on the range were waving towards me and to the right. So it's a swirling wind and it's gusting, which means it could be blowing 5 mph when a guy gets into his backswing and 20 mph by the time the ball is in the air.
2:50 p.m.: Vaughn Taylor is about to tee off in the second-to-last pairing of the day. I'd like to take full credit for his success this week. OK, partial credit. I spoke with Vaughn two weeks ago for a pre-Masters story I was working on and we had the following exchange (and I'm paraphrasing here):
- Me: So, you can play Augusta National whenever you want, right?
Him: Yeah, ever since I qualified at the end of last year, I can call up in advance and go play.
Me: Since you live in Augusta, you must be taking advantage of that all the time, huh?
Him: Actually, I haven't played there since December.
Me: Uh, dude, you can play Augusta National anytime you want ... and you haven't been?
Him: No, but I think I'll definitely play tomorrow.
Me: I should hope so!
Yeah, I know. He was probably going to play here the next day anyway. But I'd like to think I served as some sort of motivation. And that practice round is why he's on the leaderboard today. Like I said, give me at least partial credit.
2:53 p.m.: I've already been asked the inevitable question, "So who's going to win?" about a dozen times since play ended yesterday. And I've told each person, the only thing I'm sure of is this: "I have absolutely no idea."
I guess if you're handicapping the field, you'd have made Vijay Singh the green jacket favorite entering today, with Tiger Woods and co-leader Tim Clark right behind him. But that's just a guess.
2:57 p.m.: Right on cue, the blog jinx continues ... Vijay Singh begins his round with a bogey on the ultra-tough first hole.
2:59 p.m.: Stuart Appleby has played in 40 of these major things before and owns just two previous top-10 results. But he's making his way up the leaderboard right now. Appleby started at 1-over, but has gone birdie-birdie on the first two holes to get within one of the lead.
3:01 p.m.: Co-leaders Brett Wetterich and Tim Clark have just teed off in the final pairing mismatch of heavyweight vs. featherweight. Wetterich is listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds (but looks a lot bigger than that) and Clark is listed at 5-foot-7, 165 pounds (but looks a lot smaller). And Wetterich is averaging 301.5 yards per drive this season, while Clark is at 264.3. They could hold 40-yard dashes down the fairway between these guys' tee shots today.
3:07 p.m.: I was going to say how much I didn't like Justin Rose's chances today, but I think I missed the boat already. After starting 69-75, Rose has made two bogeys to begin today's round and I believe that could be the last we'll see of him this weekend. Those who predicted he couldn't match his Thursday magic of only 20 putts were right; he needed 10 more than that in yesterday's round.
3:09 p.m.: My apologies on the earlier Appleby note -- he actually made par on the first hole, then followed with birdie-birdie ... and now one more at No. 4 to tie for the lead. Remember, no Aussie has ever owned a green jacket. Could be a big story. Does anyone have Greg Norman's cell phone number?
3:13 p.m.: A lot of folks have been quick to note that Tim Clark has a lot of major experience, with a T-3 at the '05 U.S. Open and a solo second here last year. But he's never won on the PGA Tour and -- I love this stat -- has only owned two end-of-round leads in his career. Those came in 2001 at Tucson and 2005 at Disney. Neither of those, I'd like to point out, are Augusta National.
3:16 p.m.: Here's guessing Stuart Appleby didn't bring enough sweaters with him this week. He's wearing a black pro shop special, with the Masters logo -- the same one anyone else at the course (with enough cash in their wallet; I'm guessing it wasn't on the sale rack) can buy, too.
3:20 p.m.: You wanted it. You're getting it. Tournaments these days just aren't as much fun and lose some cache anytime Tiger Woods isn't in the hunt, but folks, Tiger Woods is right now officially in the hunt. Whatever he worked on after yesterday's round has been fixed, because Tiger is now 2-under for the day and very much in the thick of things. This is starting to get interesting ... and fun ...
3:28 p.m.: Billy Payne is in his first year as Augusta National chairman. The course is playing as tough as it has in more than three decades. I'm just wonder how come we haven't seen more "Bring The Payne" newspaper headlines so far.
3:31 p.m.: I've been working here at the course until after 10 p.m. every night and the only (trust me, the only) perk is that the media gate is closed at that time, so I instead have to drive down Magnolia Lane (usually reserved for players and members) to get back out to Washington Road. It's not a very long street, so I always take my time, open the windows and take it all in. So much history there.
3:35 p.m.: Good question from e-mailer Andres:
- I'm a VP of international finance, so I know something about numbers. Why doesn't the Masters allow CBS to show more coverage?
There's definitely a "less is more" philosophy around this place. Members play golf sparingly, rather than tearing it up for 36 holes a day. Limited badges are sold to "patrons" rather than trying to pack in a full house. A smaller field is invited rather than the 156 players which make up other tournaments.
And the TV coverage goes hand-in-hand with that philosophy. But remember, it's getting better. The first two rounds were only broadcast for the first time in 1982. It wasn't that long ago that the front nine holes were never televised. And live Internet coverage was conceived last year. So, it's getting there. But it's all part of the philosophy.
3:41 p.m.: Tiger Woods and Paul Casey seem to get along pretty well, which is good; they've had to spend a lot of time together this week. They played together (along with Aaron Baddeley) during the first two rounds and they're feeding off each other right now, as the two men made the turn in a combined 3-under; Tiger shot 34, Casey shot 35.
3:49 p.m.: Retief Goosen bogeyed the 18th (he's 4-over on the hole through three rounds), but did shoot 2-under 70, which I think may hold up as the round of the day. How did he fare so well under such conditions? Here's how he explained it afterwards:
- "The greens aren't easy and you can see by the pin placements that there are a few pins out there that they have never used before, because they know if they put them where they usually put them, then it would be impossible."
So, all those who'd like to accuse Augusta National of having "U.S. Open-like conditions," you might want to rethink that. Yes, the course is playing tough, in relation to par. But this is not the U.S. Open, where the course is set up as difficult as possible.
3:54 p.m.: I mentioned how Tiger Woods and Paul Casey seem to be feeding off of each other. Well, same goes for Brett Wetterich and Tim Clark ... but in a negative way. The second-round co-leaders are a combined 6-over through three holes. I've been saying for a few days that I was waiting for Wetterich to make that big number he is known for doing. We just saw it on the third hole, where he carded a triple to move to 4-over for the day. Yikes.
4:01 p.m.: Good question from reader Brian that had me scrambling for the research books:
- Has Tiger ever won a major with two over-par rounds?
No, he hasn't. In his 2002 U.S. Open win at Bethpage, Woods shot even-par in the third round and 2-over in the final round, but he has never won when he's had two over-par rounds.
4:04 p.m.: One way to get your e-mail question answered in the blog: Be funny. Another way: Be the Executive Director of the New York State Golf Association. Bill Moore chimes in with this "for entertainment purposes only" query:
- Do you think Retief Goosen will be in the last five groups tomorrow?
Well, obviously, that'd mean he'd finish the day in 10th place. He's in 23rd right now, which means 13 players would have to slide down to his level. Those currently in a share of ninth place are at 2-over, so they'd each have to finish their rounds playing 4-over for the rest of the day. Too many variables. The course is not playing as tough as I had originally thought, so I'll say Goose ends the day somewhere around 14th or so, just missing the last five groups.
4:09 p.m.: Our first spy report of the day:
- "Tiger Woods is taking 10 minutes on each shot, checkling and re-checking the wind."
That's an absolute necessity today, though to be fair, I'll bet every other player is doing the same. Professional rounds played in windy conditions probably take 30-45 minutes longer than those in benign conditions.
4:16 p.m.: Forty-seven holes for Tiger Woods so far. Zero three-putts, including a gutty 4-footer on 11 just a few minutes ago. When Tiger putts like this, he wins. He's now tied for second place. Well, that didn't take long.
4:19 p.m.: Brett Wetterich and Tim Clark are a combined 9-over through five holes so far today. Thanks for playing, guys. As a parting gift, you'll be given a DVD copy of the 1996 Masters final round, a.k.a. "How Not to Play Augusta," by Greg Norman.
4:23 p.m.: Justin Rose is hanging around. He just made his first birdie since the 14th hole on Thursday, a span of 28 total holes. Think about that for a second: A player just went 28 consecutive holes without a birdie at Augusta National ... only to find himself in a share of second place when the streak ended. That doesn't happen very often, oh by the way.
4:26 p.m.: Gotta love Rich Beem. Up there with Mark Calcavecchia, Chris DiMarco and only a handful of other guys as the better quotes in golf -- or should I say, liveliest quotes in golf. Here's his take on the course conditions on Saturday:
- "It was like trying to land a golf ball on your driveway, but your driveway has mounds on them and they stick the pins near the mounds."
Take it easy, Champ. Why don't you stop talking for a while?
4:35 p.m.: Interesting observation from e-mailer Anthony:
- I received the latest Golf Digest in the mail today. It has Tiger Woods on the cover, and it advertises tips on driving distance and hitting it straighter than ever. I assume someone else is giving the straight driving tips.
I have it right here, too, and would like to point out that the words "DRIVING DISTANCE" are much bigger than "how to hit it straighter than ever" just below it. For the record, Woods hit 7 of 14 fairways in Round 1 and 5 of 14 yesterday, but has seen a marked improvement, hitting 7 of 10 so far in the third round. Maybe he just got the issue in the mail today, too.
4:41 p.m.: There are now a half-dozen players tied for second place, with Stuart Appleby two shots ahead. Nothing against the Aussie, but if you're not rooting for Appleby to come back to the pack, you're not helping the cause. I'm all for a 10-way tie entering Sunday. And we're getting closer. Appleby has a testy par putt coming up.
4:44 p.m.: Appleby makes par. Damn.
4:51 p.m.: E-mailer Dan checks in with more of a statement than a question:
- After all the changes at Augusta National, just imagine if they also had changed the par of the course from 72 to 70 like so many other tournament courses have done. It's possible that 10 over par or higher would win.
Yes, that is possible. Then again, as my friend Ron Sirak mentions every single time I talk to him, what's the point of par anyway? It's just a number. Like Ron always maintains -- and he has helped me see the light, too -- if it takes 270 to win a golf tournament, shoot 270. If it takes 290, shoot 290. Par means very little and we all tend to get caught up in it.
That said, I'll probably mention the number of players in red numbers five more times today, so I'm as guilty of it as anyone.
4:58 p.m.: Report from a spy who just walked off the course:
- "Go ahead and write it. It's over."
The first "it" in that line would be the final game story, in which Tiger Woods triumphs to win his fifth green jacket. The second "it" refers, of course, to this tournament. I'll believe "it" when I see "it."
5:01 p.m.: I've heard two comments in the last two minutes about Stuart Appleby's hair. The first one said it looked like he should be playing in an LPGA major. The second had a much different take, saying his locks look "Nicklaus-esque."
Said the dude next to me when he heard that: "That's the first and last time Stuart Appleby will ever be compared to Jack Nicklaus."
5:08 p.m.: Two-time champ Ben Crenshaw, who's 54 years old, made the cut yesterday for the second straight year. Good for him. That's awesome. Gentle Ben loves this place and it's great to see him for two extra days.
But (and you knew a "but" was coming) ... Crenshaw is now looking at the possibility of finishing last among those to make the cut for the second time in a row. He shot 78-79 on the weekend last year and fired an 84 today to finish tied for last with Billy Mayfair and Arron Oberholser. Here's hoping Crenshaw holes a nice 12-footer on 18 to beat someone tomorrow. He deserves that much.
5:12 p.m.: Two more quick thoughts on Appleby's hair and then I promise we'll stop trying to figure out whom he resembles.
From Sam in Nashville:
- What is up with Appleby's hair? Is he trying for the homeless man's Owen Wilson award this week?
And from Dave in Los Angeles:
- Appleby's hair looks more like Greg Norman's.
I'm guessing Stuart Appleby would prefer you abstain from any Greg Norman comparisons until after the Masters is over, please.
5:15 p.m.: Phil Mickelson just walked off the course after a second-straight 73 that left him at 6-over, likely out of the running for his third green jacket in four years, though he wouldn't admit that much. He talked to CBS after the round:
- "[The golf course was] as tough as I've seen, but I thought that it wasn't as hard as it could have been, because some water was put on the greens.
Then he slipped in this comment, too:
- "I know over par is going to win tomorrow."
Well, that means Mickelson knows what number he needs to shoot: 67. Then again, no player has done better than 68 yet this week, so there might not be a 67 out there for him.
5:24 p.m.: If next year was this year, Jerry Kelly wouldn't even be here right now.
Let me explain. Augusta National chairman Billy Payne announced earlier this week that all PGA Tour champions will once again gain entrance into the Masters starting with the 2008 event. But so as to limit the field, only the top 30 on the money list will be invited, rather than the top 40 (as has been the case for a few years).
Kelly finished 39th on the money list last year, barely making it out of the 41st spot by $36,997. Since he didn't qualify any other way, that's the only reason Kelly is playing this week.
He's taking full advantage, currently in solo second place.
5:27 p.m.: Once again, either the jinx is on or I spoke too soon. Three-putt bogey on 10 drops Kelly to 1-over, tied with Woods and two behind Stuart Appleby.
5:34 p.m.: If the final pairing of Tim Clark and Brett Wetterich teamed to play best-ball on the front nine, they'd have shot 2-over 38, with bogeys on Nos. 2 and 4, and seven pars. Had they played worst-ball (a fun little format, by the way), they'd have shot 8-over 44. That wouldn't take the $10 pro shop gift certificate they give for third place at your club.
5:44 p.m.: Stuart Appleby has now made par on seven straight holes and you'd better believe he'd love to close with four more. CBS' Jim Nantz just mentioned that Appleby owns the Masters record for consecutive holes without a bogey (50) in tournament history, which he accomplishes in 2001. To which I say: How the heck did he only finish in a share of 31st place that year? Weird stat.
5:48 p.m.: Just reading up on the history of the green jacket in my Masters media guide and found this note:
- "Typically, a multiple winner will have only one green jacket unless his size drastically changes."
We're looking at you, Mr. Stadler.
5:51 p.m.: One more media guide nugget, from the adjacent page:
- "We would also like if we can, to contribute something to the advancement of the game."
Wouldn't all of us? You know, if we can. They might as well say, "Hey, if we get around to it, when we're not hosting the Masters, or playing the course, or having lunch in the grillroom, if we get a chance, we'll try to contribute something to the advancement of the game." Sounds like it should be on a list of chores, right behind cleaning the garage and painting the bathroom.
5:55 p.m.: How nice of Tiger Woods to make our Sunday extremely interesting. Rather than a quick birdie start and final-round coronation like we saw in his last major win at Medinah, Woods is gonna have to work for this one. He just finished bogey-bogey, just as he did in the first round, to shoot 72. That leaves him four strokes behind Stuart Appleby for now. Still in contention? Of course. A lock to win? Far from it.
6:02 p.m.: Tiger Woods talked to CBS after his round:
- "I didn't really look at leaderboards today. ... I was just plodding around out there. ... This was one of the hardest rounds we've ever had out here."
Not exactly ground-breaking stuff, but Woods does confirm what everyone else has been saying.
6:09 p.m.: From the e-mail bin, responding to an earlier post:
- Regarding your post about the Masters giving back to the sport: You might want to check their charitable contributions each year. They give a lot to the First Tee cause. And their recent honoring of sportswriters who have contributed to the sport was a moving ceremony. I agree they could do more. But they could also charge a lot more to the patrons (in ticket prices, concessions, and souvenirs).
No doubt. And I didn't mean to imply otherwise. It was just the wording of the statement in the media guide -- the "if we can" part, especially -- that caught me as a bit quirky.
6:12 p.m.: Another e-mail about an earlier post, this one from Andrew:
- If the quote is actually what he said ("I know over par is going to win tomorrow."), then by his reckoning, he could have to shoot anything from a 67 up to and including 72, if the "over par" winning score were going to be 6-over. That is, he didn't say "I know 1-over par is going to win tomorrow," he merely asserted that something over par would win. What he thinks that "something" will be is what will dictate what he thinks he has to shoot. If he thinks 4-over would otherwise win the tournament, then he has to shoot a 69, for example.
Very true, but I was intoning my own opinion into that assessment. It's not supposed to be as windy tomorrow and Sunday's hole locations are usually a bit more generous, so I think 1-over is a pretty safe bet to win this tournament. You're right; Phil may think 4-over is good enough and could shoot 69 or 70, but I'm not buying that it'll be that high.
6:18 p.m.: Shhhh. No one talk about Geoff Ogilvy. William from Cleveland's got some cash riding on him:
- The announcers keep talking about Stuart Appleby being from Australia. But it will be another Aussie, Geoff Ogilvy, winning this week. Plus, I have $100 riding on him. So please dont talk about him OK?
You got it, man. No talking about Ogilvy. I won't say one word about the quadruple-bogey he made (two balls in the water) on 15 or the ensuing bogey-bogey on 16 and 17. Wouldn't want to jinx you or anything.
6:30 p.m.: Whoever told Stuart Appleby to get Greg Norman's haircut for the Masters might have killed his karma. Appleby putting for double -- yes, double! -- on 17 ... and he misses. Can someone please remove that 3-iron from his larynx?
6:35 p.m.: To Mr. Executive Director who asked the question posted at 4:04 p.m.: Uh, my bad. Retief Goosen is now in a share of 11th place. And since he had the best third-round score of those in 11th, he needs just one more player to drop to 6-over and he'll be in one of the last five pairings. Wow.
6:38 p.m.: Great point by Paul in Minneapolis, just as Justin Rose drops a shot at 16 to fall to 2-over:
- Who says Tiger never comes from behind? He's doing it without even playing! The guy's amazing.
Rose, Stuart Appleby and Vaughn Taylor are now tied for first at 2-over, with Woods and Zach Johnson one shot further behind.
6:46 p.m.: And 20 years after Larry Mize wins the Masters, another Augusta native is leading the tournament. Vaughn Taylor makes birdie at 15. Here's guessing he'd give about a half-million bucks for a par-par-par finish.
6:52 p.m.: Remember, if Vaughn Taylor wins, I'm taking credit. Just remember I said that.
6:59: After walking off the course with a 73, Stuart Appleby was asked by CBS to talk about his triple-bogey on 17. His answer:
- "Can't we talk about my birdies instead?"
- "Stuff like that happens out here. ... That's golf. That's Augusta. It's a tough opponent and it will be a tough opponent tomorrow."
7:05 p.m.: Max in Naples would like us to remember some history:
- If your boy Vaughn bogeys one of the last two, it will be Eldrick and Stuart in the last group. Remember: The winner has come out of the last group at the Masters every year since 1991.
That's a great point. Will the streak continue?
And this from Parker in Arlington, Va.:
- If Vaughn Taylor loses, will you also take credit ... for maybe putting a little extra pressure on him?
No way. I can only carry the guy so far. Can't hand him the green jacket, too. (And if you think the pressure of a third-round lead at the Masters, in front of his hometown fans, at the tournament he'd most like to win is being compounded by the "pressure" of being mentioned in some blog, well, you've been staring at the computer screen for too long this week, my friend.)
7:11 p.m.: E-mailer John has asked that I check out Lee Westwood's scorecard from today. He shot 72, so it couldn't be too exciti-- ... whoa!
Trust me. Click here. Six birdies, six pars, six bogeys. So symmetrical. I'm honestly not sure I've ever seen that before.
7:19 p.m.: Well, Tiger Woods, who could very well be sitting over a bowl of chicken soup in the Champions Locker Room right now ... or driving to his house ... or even sleeping, just won the Masters. I hate to say it, especially because I was so excited at the prospect of Woods having to play come-from-behind golf since he was four shots off the lead when he finished. But now that Vaughn Taylor just went bogey-bogey on 16 and 17, it sure looks like Tiger will be in the final pairing on Sunday. It'll be a struggle. He won't run away with it. But I bet you can't get better than even money that Woods will be slipping on his fifth green jacket a little over 24 hours from now.
7:24 p.m.: Don't look now -- seriously, avert your eyes; it's a mess -- but second-round co-leaders Tim Clark and Brett Wetterich can finish par-par and still shoot 79 and 82, respectively. Let's all learn from this. I've said it a million times. Leading after the second round of a major is like leading at halftime of an NBA game. It just doesn't mean anything.
7:30 p.m.: What an absolute massacre out there today. Nightmare on Magnolia Lane. Guys just look shellshocked as they come off the course. Can't say I blame 'em.
That'll do it for today's blog. I'll leave you with one final thought: After Day 3 of the 2005 U.S. Open, everyone was handing the title to Retief Goosen. He lost. After Day 3 of the 2006 U.S. Open, everyone was handing the title to Phil Mickelson. He lost. After Day 3 of this week's Masters, expect everybody to be handing the green jacket over to Tiger Woods already. Hey, I think he's going to win, too. But crazier things have happened. Nothing would shock me after these first three days.
Check back tomorrow for the final installment of the live blog (around 2:30 p.m. again) and don't have too many triple-bogey nightmares tonight ...
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.