Campbell up 1 as masters suspends play

Updated: 2006-04-09 10:51

A wedge from Tiger Woods spun toward the cup, stopping inches away. Phil Mickelson hit out of a fairway bunker to a flag he couldn't see, knowing it was good only after a roar — a sound seldom heard the first two days of the Masters.

Campbell up 1 as masters suspends play
Chad Campbell smiles on the second tee as he talks with caddy Judd Burkett before teeing off during third round play of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Saturday, April 8, 2006. [AP]

Chad Campbell came out swinging with two birdies, then stumbled with two bogeys.

So much action was crammed into so little time Saturday, a two-hour window of thrills that had been missing at Augusta National, all because of storms that brought this major championship to life.

It was quick, like a sneak preview.

What awaits Sunday is a double feature with a star-studded cast, the Big Five and more.

When shadows gave way to gloaming on the rain-softened course, Campbell was still atop the leaderboard at 6 under par through four wild holes, one shot ahead of Rocco Mediate and Tim Clark, both of whom birdied their final hole.

For the second straight year, the Masters will be a marathon.

"It's going to be tough, but I don't think winning any major is easy," Campbell said. "Walking this course, 18 holes is quite a chore, so 32 ... we've got our work cut out for us."

Mediate might face the longest walk with his ailing back, but he wouldn't miss a chance to win a green jacket.

"I'll crawl around here if I have to," he said. "I have to do something real special the next 32 holes to win this golf tournament. Some of the bigger guns have to play a nice, solid round of golf. I have to go above that."

There were plenty of big guns, no presence larger than Woods.

The defending champion was in a familiar position — three shots out of the lead with two birdies that showed how much Augusta National changed after a four-hour rain delay.

His wedge on No. 3 hit soft and spun back toward the cup for a tap-in birdie. A pitch shot on the par-5 eighth cleared the mounds, spun sideways at the cup and drifted 5 feet away for another birdie.

Woods couldn't have pulled those shots off on the firm, crusty course he played the first two days.

"I'm right there in the ball game," he said.

A year ago, Woods walked off the course four shots behind Chris DiMarco through nine holes, made four straight birdies Sunday morning and went into the final 18 holes with a three-shot lead.

This time, he has company.

Mickelson birdied his first three holes, only to drop shots from the bunker on the next two to join Woods at 3 under, along with Padraig Harrington of Ireland. The other members of the Big Five — Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen — were at 2 under, along with Fred Couples and Players champion Stephen Ames.

And don't rule out two other major champions — Mike Weir, at 1 under through 11 holes, or even Jim Furyk, one of only 11 players who managed to complete the third round.

Furyk got through 12 holes before thunder rumbled beyond the pines, suspending play for 4 hours, 5 minutes. He returned to a course that was softer, longer and more vulnerable to complete a 68 that put him at even-par 216.

Technically, that makes him the clubhouse leader.

"Depends what the other guys shoot," Furyk said, dismissing the suggestion he was still in the hunt.

And much of that depends on the weather, which could make this Masters even more fickle. The forecast was for sunshine and wind in the morning, when the leaders had to finish the third round, followed by diminishing wind during the final round Sunday afternoon.

The third round is to resume Sunday at 7:45 a.m. EDT.

"You're talking about Sunday at the Masters," said Stewart Cink, who was at even par through 12 holes. "I think adrenaline will keep everybody going enough to get through it. If endurance comes into play, or maybe fatigue, it will be after the tournament is over."

For most of Saturday, it was a matter of getting started.

Woods hit a few balls on the practice range before the sirens blared to halt play. Mickelson went through his drill of hitting 100 putts in a 3-foot circle. The leaders didn't tee off until just before 7 p.m.

"I wish we could have played 18 holes in these conditions," Els said.

It was the fifth straight year rain has interrupted play and changed the nature of Augusta National, and this was especially drastic. Instead of firm, fast conditions that made it difficult to hold the greens, rain gave players the green light to go at the flags.

But while most players zipped along, trying to take advantage of benign conditions, Campbell couldn't get off the course soon enough. He opened with an 8-foot birdie putt and a two-putt birdie on the par-5 second, reaching 8 under par. But his wedge spun off the green at No. 3 leading to bogey, and he made bogey from the bunker on the fourth hole when his 6-foot par putt lipped out.

"We have our work cut out for us," he said. "It's where I want to be."

Going for his third major in as many years, Mickelson came out firing with a shot from the fairway bunker into 10 feet, a nifty pitch to 4 feet on the second and a 15-foot birdie putt on the third hole that sent him soaring to the top of the leaderboard. But he dropped back down after missing a 4-foot par putt, followed by a drive into the trees on the fifth.

Mickelson didn't speak to reporters after his round, getting into his SUV and pulling away.

Mediate, playing in the final group with Campbell, made it a two-shot swing on the par-3 fourth with a rare birdie. Still, he couldn't help but notice Woods and other members of the Big Five behind them.

"As long as he's upright, he's close," Mediate said of Woods, a four-time Masters champion.

Woods had to scramble for par twice, from well right of the first green and with a 10-foot putt on the seventh. He looked forward to playing 27 holes, as he did last year, especially on greens that allowed him to play more aggressively.

"I know I'm in condition. That's not a problem," Woods said. "It's a matter of execution. In soft conditions like this, you can make some birdies."

Campbell won earlier this year at the Bob Hope Classic, and his two other PGA Tour titles — the Tour Championship and the Bay Hill Invitational — show he has the game.

Even so, his experience is lacking compared with those chasing him.

"Those guys do have more major championship experience with the winds," Campbell said. "I'd like to start somewhere."

Couples got off to a rugged start with a bogey on the opening hole and failed to make birdie on the par-5 second. But the sentimental choice of this Masters — Ben Crenshaw — was fading fast.

The 54-year-old Masters champion, found trouble in the trees at No. 2 on his way to a double bogey and was 5 over for his round through eighth holes, 10 shots out of the lead.