Field gains ground on leader Campbell

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – With rain making its annual Masters appearance, Chad Campbell and the guys chasing him had to wait around all day to tee off.

Just enough time for a tantalizing preview of today’s marathon.

Campbell birdied his first two holes Saturday, then made two straight bogeys before the horn sounded with darkness settling over Augusta National. He headed off for a short – and surely restless – night with a one-stroke lead over Tim Clark and Rocco Mediate.

“A long day for four holes,” Campbell said.

Lurking just three strokes behind: defending champion Tiger Woods and 2004 winner Phil Mickelson. And they weren’t the only big names taking aim at Campbell, who has never won a major title. Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh – major champions all – were within four shots of the leader.

“Sure, they’ve got a little more experience at this than I do,” Campbell said. “But you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Woods managed to get in nine holes Saturday, which should sound familiar. He was at the same point in last year’s rain-plagued tournament, returning this morning to turn a four-stroke deficit into a three-shot lead by the end of the third round. He went on to beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff that afternoon.

“As long as he’s upright, he’s close,” Mediate said, referring to Woods, a four-time Masters champion.

Campbell, who surged to the top of the leaderboard with a 5-under-par 67 on Friday, didn’t tee off until nearly 7 o’clock at night. He rolled in an 8-foot putt at the first hole to keep his momentum going, then made a two-putt birdie from 35 feet at the par-5 second.

That took his score to 8 under – four strokes clear of the field. But the hefty margin quickly narrowed. Campbell came up short of the green with his approach at No. 3, chipped to 10 feet and missed the putt. After knocking his tee shot at the par-3 fourth into the bunker, he blasted to 6 feet but lipped out the par putt, a tough way to finish a day that was both long and short. The rain-softened course made it easier to attack the greens and restored an advantage to the more powerful players, so the medium-striking Campbell figures to have plenty of challengers today.

Everyone who didn’t finish has to return at 7:45 a.m. to complete the third round, then come back in the afternoon for the final 18 holes.

Mickelson started with three straight birdies, followed by back-to-back bogeys. Clark birdied three of the five holes he played before dark. Padraig Harrington was tied with Woods and Mickelson at 4 under. Even Jim Furyk, who was the first golfer off the tee and made it through 12 holes before the rain struck, gave himself a glimmer of hope by finishing off a 4-under 68 that got him back to even par.

Furyk had back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. He had a chance to make it three in a row, but a 15-footer slid by the cup at No. 18.

“It was definitely on my mind coming down the last few holes,” said Furyk, who played with a noncompeting marker. “I really wanted to get that last putt in for birdie. I didn’t play in any wind. It’s not going to play any calmer than what I had.”

All week long, the talk at the Masters was about the bulked-up course. On Saturday, it turned to weather.

For the fifth year in a row, the tournament was hit by storms, remnants of a weather system that spawned deadly tornadoes in Tennessee and damaged homes and businesses in suburban Atlanta.

At least the forecast was favorable – sunny skies, with temperatures around 70.

During the delay, the caddie shack was crowded with loopers, who escaped the rain and awaited word on when play might resume. Some fans remained on the course, huddled under green-and-white umbrellas and holding onto their prime seats.

“It’s so pretty and getting to see the golfers up close, a little rain is worth it,” said Penny Lowery of Dallas, Texas, who has been attending the tournament for about 30 years. “Just get a good cup of hot coffee and another pimento cheese sandwich.”

Rainy weather is nothing new for the Masters:

– In 2005, the start of the first round was delayed nearly 51/2 hours, then another line of storms hit on Friday. They didn’t sort things out until Sunday morning, when the leaders finished the third round before returning for their final 18 holes.

– In 2004, the first round began with drizzle in the morning, followed by sunshine at midday, then heavy rain in the afternoon. Play was finally suspended with thunderstorms approaching.

– In 2003, Thursday’s round was postponed and replaced by 36 holes on Friday, a dusk-to-dawn marathon that was especially tough on the aging former champions who play the tournament. flavor.

– In 2002, the second round was suspended in the afternoon when a deluge swept over the course. A persistent drizzle the following day kept play from resuming until mid-morning. Even then, the pristine course was transformed into a quagmire.

AP-ES-04-08-06 2021EDT

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