Weir Grabs Masters Lead, Tiger Falls Back
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) _ Tiger Woods endured some strange struggles Sunday at the Masters, placing his quest for a third-straight Masters title in severe jeopardy and opening the door for Mike Weir to win his first major championship.
Halfway through the final round, nine players were within four strokes of the lead. That group did not include Woods, who shot 39 on the front to fall seven strokes behind the lead at 2 over.
Weir made two birdies on the front nine and also saved a par out of the mud on No. 7 to shoot 2-under-par 34 over nine holes and take the lead with an overall score of 5 under.
Len Mattiace was Weir’s closest challenger. Returning to Augusta National for the first time since 1988, when he was an amateur, Mattiace made an 80-foot putt on No. 10 to pull within one stroke of Weir. He also pitched in from 60 yards on No. 8 for birdie.
Jeff Maggert, the leader after three rounds, was at 3 under. Jim Furyk, David Toms and 2000 Masters champion Vijay Singh were another stroke back.
Seeking his first major, Phil Mickelson was at 2 under, too, helped by a 90-foot birdie putt on No. 2 that brought a huge smile to his face and a huge roar from the gallery.
Woods’ trouble began on the third hole, when an errant drive forced him to invert his wedge and hit his second shot left-handed. He made double-bogey there and had three more bogeys after that.
Tiger’s left-handed shot wasn’t the strangest of the day. That belonged to Maggert, who took a two-stroke penalty after hitting a bunker shot that ricocheted off the lip of the sand trap and hit him in the chest. He made triple bogey there and fell from the lead to third place.
Last year’s PGA champion, Rich Beem, knocked a shot in from the middle of the fairway on No. 5 for an eagle. Beem, Ernie Els and Jose Maria Olazabal all stood at 1 under.
Weir saved par on No. 7 after an errant drive embedded into the slop on the right side of the fairway. He got a favorable drop, and was able to hit his second shot off flat, drying mud. Weir hit his second shot into the bunker and saved par from there, part of a front nine in which he didn’t make a bogey.