Friday, 19 March 2010
The Masters - Round Three  (Getty Images)
The Masters - Round Three (Getty Images)

There could be an historic moment when The Masters finishes at Augusta National on Sunday.

But after a nightmare nine on one hole in his third round 73 today, Padraig Harrington has accepted it will not be him achieving it.

No third successive major. No "Paddy Slam" of all four. Not this time any way.

Nor is it likely to be the 15th major of Tiger Woods' amazing career.

The final round will see Woods and Phil Mickelson go head-to-head as so many people hoped. But they are joint tenth and seven shots back.

Instead it is 48 year old Kenny Perry who has the chance to rewrite the record books.

Thirteen years after he lost a play-off for the US PGA to Mark Brooks at Valhalla - the course where he helped America to victory in last September's Ryder Cup - Perry can now become the oldest champion in major history.

He is two months older than Julius Boros was when he captured the 1968 US PGA title.

With 18 holes to play Perry, round in 70, is joint leader with Argentina's 2007 US Open champion Angel Cabrera, who broke 70 for the third day running with a 69.

On 11 under, they are two ahead of Perry's fellow countryman Chad Campbell, with Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, two more members of Paul Azinger's cup side, lying fourth and fifth.

Harrington did not hesitate to write off his chances after his nine - only one short of the record high score at the 575-yard hole in Masters history.

Although the Open and US PGA champion came back with five birdies he knew it was never going to be enough after starting the day already seven adrift.

His pulled drive ran down a slope into trouble and in trying to get down near the green on the par five Harrington hit a tree trunk and rebounded into the bushes.

He was forced to take a penalty drop, but his next attempt also hit a tree and went into a ditch.

Despite the overnight tornado which had dumped over an inch of water on the area in under two hours he was able to play the ball out, but could not advance it far at all.

His sixth was just short of the green and by failing to get up and down he crashed to two over.

"Obviously my chances went then," he said after coming back with five birdies, but also after dropping two more strokes.

"These things happen in the game and you can't do much about it.

"I didn't really think the second shot was a gamble, but there was a root in front of the ball and as I went to hit I backed off a bit.

"I wasn't concerned about the tree until then, but it came off the club a bit right.

"I'm not really disappointed and I was not deflated at all. It was a 'so be it' sort of thing. I would not in any way say I have full control over my destiny.

"It wasn't to be. It's the nature of the game - my game any way. I'll build up to the US Open now.

"I'm really gutted about how I chipped, though. I'm really not happy about that - you can't afford to give shots away and there were three easy ones I made a dog's dinner of."

Woods birdied three of his last six holes, but he had opened with a double bogey six and that meant "only" a 70 and at four under par - three better than Harrington - he remained part of the chasing pack.

Leading Europeans Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are on the same mark as the world number one. They were round in 68 and 70 respectively, but did not get their wish that the front-runners came back closer to them.

Perry and Campbell were joint halfway pacesetters and both had two birdies in front nine 34s before the former edged in front on the next.

Bogeys on the next two from Perry handed the advantage to Campbell as both continued their pursuit of a first major, but they were back on terms when Perry two-putted the long 13th.

Campbell was the one to make the big error, though. He found the bunker right of the 16th, left it in and then missed from five feet for a double bogey five.

But as that happened Cabrera, having birdied the long 15th, added another from nine feet at the 17th to catch Perry.

Alongside Harrington on one under are Justin Rose (71), 51-year-old Sandy Lyle (73), Graeme McDowell, who shot 73 playing with Woods, and Sergio Garcia, whose disappointing 75 will surely result in his wait for a first major continuing.

Luke Donald's 72 left him one further back with 19 year old Rory McIlroy - still in the tournament after being cleared of any wrong-doing in a bunker on the final hole of his second round.

Officials looked into whether McIlroy had kicked the second after leaving his ball in the sand, but after calling him to the club at 8.40pm it was decided there was no violation.

It meant he survived the cut with nothing to spare before adding a 71.

Houston Open winner Paul Casey shot 73 for one over and fellow Englishman Ross Fisher matched that round to be two over.

Poulter was "steaming" over a three-putt bogey on the ninth - his only dropped shot - while Westwood said: "I played great. A 70 was easily as many as it could have been.

"You never know what can happen round here. There are disasters to be had - that's what makes The Masters so special.

"Padraig probably just tried to squeeze out a bit too much on his second shot at the second. That's not like him as he normally thinks his way around the course really well.

"It backfired on him."

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