The Masters Committee used creative pin placements and some help from Mother Nature in hope of making play more difficult in Saturday's third round of the 65th Masters.
But with a few exceptions, the conditions weren't difficult enough to dramatically reduce the red numbers near the top of the leaderboard.
"There were some tricky pin placements, but the greens hadn't firmed up at all when I played," said Rocco Mediate, who teed off at noon and fired a 6-under-par 66. "Maybe a smidgen, but nothing like they want them."
The general feeling Thursday and Friday was that the Augusta National layout was as vulnerable as ever, thanks to moist greens, overcast skies and light winds.
Conditions changed Saturday, as temperatures rose and the wind picked up to speed up the greens. The new pin placements were described as devilish by some, but the changes had a limited effect on some players in contention.
Tiger Woods had a five-birdie round, including four on the back nine, to finish with a 4-under-par 68. Phil Mickelson shot a 3-under 69 despite a double-bogey on the 14th, and Mediate's 66 was tops for the third round.
"It's still perfect, really," said Ernie Els, whose 4-under 68 put him at 9-under for the tournament. "I've been coming here since 1994 ... and this year, the greens are unbelievable. They have got a great surface. There's a little bit of moisture in them, which is great. It's just wonderful to play on these kind of greens."
Not everyone was so quick to endorse. David Toms was irked by the pin placements.
"A lot of holes, you couldn't come close to shooting at them," said Toms, who had three bogeys in his round of 1-under 71. "And if you did, you were in for bogey or double (bogey) if you missed it."
Toms said the tougher placements were a response to Thursday's and Friday's rounds, when the golfers posted 30 rounds in the 60s - a figure exceeded only twice in the past 10 years.
The 73 under-par scoresthrough 36 holes were the most since 1992, when 82 players capitalized on moist conditions.
"It seems like every hole you walked up to, they had the most difficult pin they could put it," Toms said. "I don't think they like 10-under par leading their golf tournament," which occurred when Chris DiMarco closed the second round atop the leaderboard.
Mediate said the wind was trickier on the back nine, where the swirling breezes dry out the greens and make club selection difficult.
"You can go crazy and not know what the hell is going on," he said. "On 10, 11, 12 and 13, it can make you look silly."
Fred Couples, who shot a 1-over 73 and enters today at 2-over, said the pin placements weren't brutal.
"It was really windy from the start, but the greens were soft," he said. "You just have to be careful like you do every round. Guys that are playing really well can probably get to any pin. I don't think they were ridiculous or overbearing."
Franklin Langham, who grew up in Thomson, said the greens got faster as his round went on and will be even faster today.
"I think we'll see a significant difference later on in the afternoon," said Langham, who is at 4-over for the tournament. "After the greens sit out here in this 85-degree heat, it's going to dry them up really quick."
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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