AUGUSTA, Ga. To this point, it has been a Masters driven more by rulings than by roars.
That’s no way to play the Masters.
Even Brandt Snedeker, a grown-up version of Opie Taylor, has noticed it.
“It was a very quiet day,” Snedeker said early Saturday evening, sitting behind a microphone and atop the Masters leader board with Angel Cabrera, whose persona is as imposing as Snedeker’s is cheerful.
The Masters is supposed to be about Amen Corner, pollen-swirling roars and birdie runs. Instead, it has been more about rule books, stop watches and long-winded explanations.
That needs to change Sunday or they might present the champion with a judge’s robe rather than a green jacket.
On Friday, 14-year old Tianlang Guan was given a one-stroke penalty for slow play. He wasn’t much faster on Saturday but part of that was because he shot 77, which takes a while.
Then, of course, there was the great Tiger Woods Ball Dropping Conspiracy. Woods, as you probably know, was found to have taken an improper drop after hitting his third shot into the water at No. 15 on Friday.
It wasn’t discovered until an armchair rules official called in from his Barcalounger to say Tiger had not made a proper drop. Much consternation and tweeting ensued. Woods got a call from tournament officials about 10 p.m. Friday evening and was asked to be at the club at 8 a.m. Saturday. They weren’t asking if he wanted bacon or sausage with his breakfast.
By 9 a.m., there were rumors of a possible disqualification but no white smoke from the Augusta National chimney. Shortly after 9:30 a.m., Woods was allowed to keep his afternoon tee time with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castana at a cost of two shots for a bad drop.
There were suggestions Woods should play the nobility card and disqualify himself. Woods elected to take the green jackets up on their offer to keep playing. It was the proper decision, not because he was given a special Tiger Woods pass but because the Rules of Golf allowed it.
Woods admitted he messed up on Friday and the rules committee didn’t help him by not questioning his drop on Friday afternoon. By the time it was deemed to have been done improperly, the rules guys had already signed off on what Woods had done.
It could be a one-day issue or, if Tiger does what Tiger usually does, it could be enormous by the time he reaches Augusta National’s back nine on Sunday.
That’s when the noise level should arrive – fashionably late.
Cabrera and Snedeker start the final round tied and that’s about all they have in common.
Snedeker looks like a happy face logo with shaggy blond hair and the only time he had a chance to win the Masters, he finished tied for third in 2008 but led the field in post-tournament tears. He lives in Nashville, Tenn., and is the best American golfer not named Tiger Woods.
Cabrera still lives in his native Argentina, is built like an armoire and walks like a man you wouldn’t want to race for the last parking spot. He’s won two major championships, including the 2009 Masters, but he’s different now. He doesn’t smoke on the course these days, saving his smokes for after his round.
The three players closest to the co-leaders are Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Jason Day. Their biggest challenge may be overcoming their nationality. All three are Australian and keenly aware that no Aussie has ever won the Masters, for which they can thank Greg Norman.
Matt Kuchar is close. So is Tim Clark. Let’s not even think about what the reaction will be if Scott or Clark, advocates of the long putter, were to win.
Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson will start so early on Sunday that breakfast may not have been cleared from the grill room tables when they finish.
At least they’ll have Sunday afternoon free. It might get noisy.
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