Saturday at the Masters, part 2

Compiled by Steve Hummer, Doug Roberson, Chip Towers and Ray Cox

Snedeker prepared, ready for big moment, victory

Brandt Snedeker said he’s spent 32 years of his life preparing for what Sunday will bring in the fourth round of the Masters.

“I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t win, period,” he said.

Snedeker paced his way up the leaderboard with a 3-under 69 and is tied for the lead at 7 under heading into the final round. He and Angel Cabrera are ahead of 11 golfers who are within five shots of the lead.

“I’m not here to get a good finish,” Snedeker said. “I’m not here to finish top five. I’m here to win, and that’s all I’m going to be focused on tomorrow. I realize what I have to do to do that, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that that happens.”

Snedeker finished third in 2008 and said he’s learned a lot in the years since.

“I had no clue what I was doing in 2008,” he said. “I had no game plan, no idea of when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, how to play this golf course the way you’re supposed to play it.

“I have a completely clear focus of what I need to do tomorrow, clear set of goals that I need to hit. If I do that, I have a chance to win this golf tournament.”

Snedeker won the Tour Championship at East Lake last year and followed that with a victory at Pebble Beach in February. He missed the cut in his past two events, but said that was the result of a rib injury. He’s healthy now and ready to try to secure his first major.

“I’m mentally fresh and physically fresh, and you know, this is what I’ve worked my whole life for is tomorrow,” he said. “So I’m really excited about what tomorrow holds.”

ON A ROLL

In Brandt Snedeker’s past 11 PGA Tour events, dating to the end of the 2012 season, he has two victories, three seconds and a third and seven top 10s:

Year; Event; Finish

2012; Barclays; 2

2012; Deutsche Bank; 6

2012; BMW; T37

2012; Tour Championship; Win

2013; Hyundai; 3

2013; Humana; T23

2013; Farmers; T2

2013; Waste Mgt; 2

2013; AT&T; Win

2013; Palmer; MC

2013; Shell Houston; MC

How Guan might grow golf in China

Tianlang Guan’s performance at the Masters won’t vault him into Yao Ming territory in his home country of China, but it may inspire more young athletes to take up the sport of golf.

Guan, 14 years old, became the youngest player to compete in a major in 148 years and he made the cut by shooting 4 over par in the first two rounds at Augusta National.

“NBA is more popular in China than golf,” emailed Jian Ni, president of the Chinese Business Alliance of Atlanta. “However at his young age, he will have a different inspiration on young people getting into this sport than Yao Ming on further enhancing the popularity of basketball in China. His presence at the Masters will also have an impact on China’s pride on the world stage in general.”

Playing partner Thorbjorn Olesen said: “A lot of kids in China must watch and dream that they can be here, also. So I think it’s really good for the game. There are coming more and more good golfers from Asia, so it’s nice for the game.”

Guan posted his worst round in the tournament Saturday, a 5-over 77, and is 9 over heading into the last day. However, he was the only amateur to make the cut.

“It’s just a great week for me, and I really enjoy it,” he said.

Guan was penalized a stroke for slow play Friday. Patrons ran from hole to hole following him Saturday. He and Olesen finished their round in four hours as a twosome, but officials following the group twice told Guan to pick up the pace, Olesen said. “I think we were, yeah, I don’t know, on 15 or something like that, yeah. But I didn’t think he played slow. I think he played pretty quick actually. He’s 14, and there’s a big crowd following him, so it’s pretty difficult for him. I think he’s handled it really, really good.

“He’s a great player. I mean, every shot he hit was almost at the pin and in the right spots. He could have holed a few more putts today, but he didn’t. But I was really impressed by his game. It was impressive to watch.

Guan said: “I’m really happy, and I really appreciate that they’re watching me here.”

Guan said he may try to qualify for the U.S. Open, which will be played at Merion on June 13-16.

Aussie trio on the prowl for first Masters victory

Could this be the year for the Aussie breakthrough at the Masters?

You’ve got to like their odds. Heading into the final round, there were three Australians within two shots of the lead. Adam Scott was sitting alone in third place at 6 under par, and Marc Leishman and Jason Day were tied for fourth at 5 under.

Rather infamously, an Aussie has never won a Masters tournament despite annually producing some of the greatest golfers in the world.

“It’s just a fact; you can’t not deal with that,” said Scott, who fired a 69 on Saturday. “We’ve got another great chance. A couple of us had a look at it a couple years ago, and three of us right there knocking on the door tomorrow. So, I mean, there’s no better time to have to deal with that question again than if you go out and play good tomorrow.”

Plenty of Aussies of had a chance. Greg Norman had final-round leads in 1986, ’87 and ’96 only to collapse or be overtaken. Similarly, Day and Scott both finished second to a red-hot shooting Charl Schwartzel in 2011.

This year, Leishman had the 36-hole lead. Day had the lead for three holes Saturday before carding three-putt bogeys at 17 and 18.

“Obviously, I would love to have the lead, but I’m a couple back for tomorrow’s round, and now’s a good opportunity to go out there tomorrow and try to win my first major,” Day said. “Masters Sunday is always very nerve-racking, so I think patience is a big key out there tomorrow. “

The Australians sent a strong contingent this year, with Scott coming in with a No. 7 world ranking, Day at 36 and John Senden at 50. Senden shot 75 on Saturday to fall back to 23rd.

Australians have won nine British Opens, four PGA Championships and two U.S. Opens.

AUSSIE GRAND SLAM?

Three Aussies (Marc Leishman, Jason Day, Adam Scott) will try to be the first of their countrymen to win a Masters title. The most recent Australian winners of each of the other majors:

Major; Aussie winner; Year

British Open; Greg Norman; 1993

PGA Championship; Steve Elkington; 1995

U.S. Open; Geoff Ogilvy; 2006

Langer is both top senior, top European after three rounds

Fred Couples is no doubt the favorite among seniors from the Champions Tour this week and deservedly so after climbing up the leaderboard Saturday, a year after sitting on the 36-hole lead.

But Langer was metaphorically clearing his throat on the golf course Saturday. His steady play not only kept pace with the long-hitting Couples, but eventually vaulted him past his friend and rival on the Champions Tour and put him in a tie for ninth at 2 under heading into the final round.

Langer, a German and two-time Masters champion (1985, ’93), not only is low senior heading into the final round. He’s also low European.

Langer did it the way he always does. He strong together a bunch of pars and created for himself very little drama.

“Very boring,” he said of his third-round 72, which featured one birdie, one bogey and 16 pars. “The pins are very difficult today, and the greens are firming up to the point where you hit some really nice shots and the ball just doesn’t stop. I mean, on 17 I probably hit a career 7-iron straight up in the sky and it came down and just took off over the green. Instead of putting for birdie you’re struggling to make par, but that’s Augusta. Overall I played pretty decent.”

Boring though it was, Langer’s method worked better for him than his much-younger playing partner for the day. Sergio Garcia made four birdies, but also had two bogeys and a double en route to a 73.

“Amazing,” Garcia remarked. “I mean, he’s just a fighter. I’ve played with him here a good amount of times now, and it was impressive. He plays solid, and he doesn’t waste any shots out there. He manages to get everything around the best way possible, and it was very impressive.”

The play of 50-somethings such as Couples and Langer has golf analysts believing a senior could break through and win this event soon. Jack Nicklaus at 46 remains the oldest competitor to win the Masters.

“I say it’s going to happen that a senior player is going to win a major championship,” Langer said. “Tom Watson almost did it, obviously on a little shorter golf course. Fred Couples can do it any given moment. There’s a few of us that might do it. It’s going to happen sooner or later.”

Words with … Fred Couples

Q: How bad does that hurt?

A. It was just a comedy of bad shots. But I would think that put me out of any running for anything tomorrow. … I was very mediocre. I made a lot of pars, but I had just some mediocre swings. I wasn't all over the place. I feel bad for Jason (Day) because he was, he waited for me forever on the 17th, and then I finally thought to myself, I'm not going to make him wait, and I said, why don't you go. And then he hit and he 3-putted. His 3 putt on 18 was all on his own, but 17 I felt like I was killing him there. It took me forever to figure out how to make a 7.

Q: You had a couple of good birdie opportunities early, first three holes, didn’t make them. Did that set the tone?

A: Well, the greens were really fast. They got hard and crusty, but for me personally, I enjoy that. So even though at 4 and on 5 I had a good chance, it's just this tee ball on 7, I smoked it up the left side and instead of trickling a little right, it stayed in that first cut of rough. And I hit a flier into the back bunker, and I made six from 145 yards. And I wasn't expecting that. But I did hit the ball OK. Really the 15th hole (bogey) was a gaffe. After watching everyone hit it from the right side yesterday, I laid it up on Friday to the left, and I tried to get it over there to the left, and I didn't hit a very good shot, I hit the tree and kicked it right.