/ 12 April 2009

Perry and Cabrera finish two shots clear

American Kenny Perry and Angel Cabrera of Argentina shared the lead on 11 under par after Saturday’s US Masters third round at a rain-softened Augusta National.

Perry shot two-under-par 70 and Cabrera posted 69 to finish on 205, two better than Chad Campbell of the United States.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, numbers one and two in the world, were lurking on 212 and will be paired together in Sunday’s final round.

A double-bogey five at the 16th dropped Campbell, the overnight co-leader with Perry, from a share of the lead as he slipped to a 72.

Jim Furyk fired a four-under 68 to take fourth place on 208, one ahead of fellow American Steve Stricker (68).

Shingo Katayama of Japan, bidding to become the first Asian to win a men’s major, was tied with South African Rory Sabbatini and American Todd Hamilton on 210.

”I think for me to have a chance it will take a 64 or 65,” Mickelson told reporters. ”But I think it’s out there.”

A violent storm that swept through Augusta on Friday night dumped 3,17cm of rain on the course, making greens receptive to approach shots although the players also had to contend with breezy conditions.

Perry (48) trying to become the oldest winner of a major championship, jockeyed for the lead with US Ryder Cup teammate Campbell for most of the round before the latter took two shots to get out of a greenside bunker at 16.

Cabrera, the 2007 US Open winner, came back from a three-putt bogey at the first hole to grab a share of the lead with a 12-foot birdie putt at the 17th.

The stocky Argentine said winning his first major at Oakmont gave him the confidence he needed as he attempted to become the first South American to win the Masters.

”What I learned is I can win big tournaments,” said Cabrera through an interpreter.

Cabrera, after going 68-68-69, is also on target to become the first player to post four sub-70 rounds in the tournament.

Perry, who lost a playoff for the 1996 US PGA Championship to compatriot Mark Brooks, declined to answer when asked how much it would mean to win his first major.

”I’m not going to answer that until it actually happens,” said Perry, who overcame a wobble at the start of the Amen Corner holes when he bogeyed the 11th and 12th.

”This golf course is too demanding. I had a tough day out there, I was struggling. I was nervous but settled down and got into the round.

”I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ve got. I’ll answer that question tomorrow if I actually get to put that Green Jacket on.”

Odds favour Cabrera or Perry as 16 of the last 17 Masters have been won by a player in the final grouping.

Woods, playing his first major since knee surgery last June, started the day needing to mount a charge to boost hopes of a fifth Masters title but he spent the day battling to come back from a double-bogey at the par-four first.

”Today is as hard as I ever fought to get a score,” Woods said. ”I got off to a terrible start with double at number one but fought back. Overall, I just wasn’t quite comfortable today for some reason.”

Padraig Harrington of Ireland, winner of the last two majors, battled valiantly after a quadruple bogey nine at the par-five second hole where his tee shot landed in the woods on the left and ricochets kept putting him in deeper trouble.

Harrington managed to post a one-over 73 for one-under-par 215, but trailed the co-leaders by 10 shots. – Reuters