AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A near-record 63 players made the cut at this Masters. Almost all of them shared one game plan: Attack the four par 5s.
The anticipated third-round shootout at Augusta National never developed. Instead, it was more of a fundamental military maneuver for the golfing elite, and as most of the players fired great shots before ultimately falling back, success on the par 5s was lasting.
"I needed to be aggressive and go after the par 5s," Brandt Snedeker said. "There are a few gettable ones, for sure. You can get them in and do something special."
"That's what just about everyone has to do around here."
Snedeker, a Nashville resident and Vanderbilt graduate, made the biggest move early Saturday. His third-round 68 moved him to 1 under par for the tournament, eight behind leader Peter Hanson. It's easy to see how Snedeker got there, playing the four par 5s at 3 under. Padraig Harrington and Hunter Mahan also moved up the leaderboard with 68s that were highlighted by three birdies on the four par 5s.
Hanson, the man the field is chasing, also made three birdies at par 5s, and Phil Mickelson grabbed a share of the lead for the first time Saturday with a 25-footer for eagle on the 13th.
Tiger Woods, however, was at the opposite end of the spectrum. Woods, a four-time winner here in large part because of his dominance of the par 5s, made four pars on those scoring holes for the second consecutive day. Woods, the pretournament favorite, is at 3 over after three rounds and likely will be an afterthought today.
"I didn't play the par 5s well this week, and I had my share of opportunities. It's frustrating to stub my foot on the par 5s, and you can't do that here," said Woods, who was a combined 133 under par on the par 5s in his previous 17 Masters appearances. "They are playing easy enough that you should play them 2 or 3 under every day, and I'm not doing that."
And while the leaders will take the same approach today, Saturday's victims of the par 5s will be left wondering what could have been, even one that was among the top five.
"Unfortunately I had a three-putt on 13," said Matt Kuchar, who was is fifth heading into today's final round despite playing the par 5s at 1 over par Saturday. "I felt like for the most part I hit all good shots and I was still 1 over.
"To be 1 over on those holes feels like you're really losing strokes."