Denmark’s Thomas Björn, who came so close to capturing The Open Championship two years ago, muscled his way into contention for the 2005 Masters Tournament thanks to a pair of majestic eagles at Augusta National. Björn equalled his lowest score at August – a five under par 67 – for a total of 138 and second place behind leader Chris DiMarco of the United States.
DiMarco carded his second successive 67 for a total of 134 as the storm-delayed event finally reached the halfway mark on Saturday lunchtime. Past Champion, Tiger Woods, two over par when play was suspended on Friday, fired a brilliant 66 for third place on 140 with England’s David Howell and Fiji’s Vijay Singh tied fourth on 131 after rounds of 69 and 73 respectively.
Howell, one of three co-leaders overnight, was betrayed slightly by his putter when he resumed, despite making a six footer for par on the 18th (his ninth) when he returned to the course at 8.30am. He three putted and second, seventh and eighth to drop back into fourth with 2000 Champion, Singh.
Meanwhile Björn made the most significant move among the European Tour Members, whose contingent was cut from 27 to 14 with the cut falling at 148, four over par.
Starting out on the back nine, he dropped back to level par with a bogey at the 12th but promptly redressed the balance by hitting a ‘utility’ club to three feet for an eagle three at the 13th and improved on that at the 15th, launching a four iron with unerring accuracy to within a foot for a tap-in eagle three.
Björn then closed out his round in style with ten foot birdie putts at the eighth and ninth to set up a third round final pairing with DiMarco. The third round began at 3.30pm local time in two-balls as the masters officials worked hard to get the event back on track following two days of interruptions.
The Danish Ryder Cup player said: “It’s amazing what a couple of eagles can do – simple eagles at that! It was also nice to finish the way I did but there is a long way to go in this tournament. You have to keep your head when you drop shots and try to keep things nice and steady.”
Björn was leading The Open in 2003 when his challenge was derailed at the 16th hole at Royal St George’s, but the Dane believes he is read to contend again. He added: “I’ve played in a lot of Major Championships and contended for a couple of them. Chris played phenomenal golf to get to ten under but anyone in the lead has a lot of work to do.”
Howell, playing in his first Masters, refused to allow his putting lapses to disturb him. He said: “A 69 is pretty good round here. I am playing well but I need to cut out the silly mistakes. I had three putts out there and I’ve got to cut that out as well. I am swinging well so there is no reason why I can’t do that again over he next two rounds.”
Australian Nick O’Hern, aiming to become the third successive left hander to win the Masters Green Jacket, moved into a tie for 11th with a pair of 72s while Luke Donald slipped up over the back nine at Augusta for a 77 and total of 145. Although he made the cut comfortably, it was a frustrating day for the Englishman, who commented: “If I had been a bit tidier around the cup it would have been a decent round. I missed too many putts inside ten feet.”
England’s Ian Poulter, Trevor Immelman and Retief Goosen of South Africa and Frenchman Thomas Levet are on 146, two over par, with Adam Scott of Australia on 147 and Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain, Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, Ernie Els of South Africa and Bernhard Langer of Germany on 148.
While two-time Champion Langer just made the cut as one of 50 players on 148 and better, there was disappointment for other former winners, Sandy Lyle of Scotland, José Maria Olazábal of Spain and Welshman Ian Woosnam, who shot 152, 153 and 156 respectively.
Also missing for the last two rounds are Padraig Harrington of Ireland, whose 77 in the second round put him one stroke outside the cut mark. He was joined on the trek home by Sergio Garcia, Angel Cabrera, Lee Westwood, Joakim Haeggman, Peter Lonard and Paul Casey.