Snedeker one shot off lead in Masters

Saturday, April 12, 2008 at 8:08am

Trevor Immelman holds a one-shot lead heading into the final two rounds at the Masters, where Tiger Woods is seven strokes back and seeking the second-biggest 36-hole comeback in tournament history.

Immelman yesterday birdied the last two holes in shooting a 4-under-par 68 for the second straight round at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

The 28-year-old South African is 8-under par midway through golf's first major championship of the season, one shot ahead of Vanderbilt and Montgomery Bell Academy product Brandt Snedeker and three in front of Steve Flesch, Ian Poulter and two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson.

``My mindset is obviously that I'm thrilled with my play thus far, but there's a very long way to go and I can't sit back and put my feet up,'' Immelman said. ``I've got to go out and try and play as well as I can the next couple of days.''

Woods, seeking his fifth Masters championship and 14th major title, is seven strokes behind Immelman at 1-under par. Jackie Burke overcame a record eight-stroke deficit during the final two rounds of the 1956 Masters, beating amateur Ken Venturi by one stroke at Augusta National after rounds of 75 and 71 in severely windy conditions.

Woods overcame a six-shot deficit after 36 holes when he won the 2005 Masters.

``I've got to make a few more birdies and eliminate the mistakes,'' said Woods, who is tied for 13th place. ``You've just got to stay patient. This golf course, anything can happen. You can come back pretty quickly here. You've just got to keep being patient and keep hanging in there.''

The last champion who was outside the top 10 after 36 holes was Jack Nicklaus in 1986.

With rounds of 72 and 71 the first two days, Woods was closer to the cut for weekend play -- 3-over par -- than to the lead.

Second Round

Woods had three bogeys and two birdies of his first 10 holes yesterday. He rallied for birdies at the 13th and 17th to get under par, then saved par on the 18th with help from a wedge shot from an adjacent fairway to five feet.

``That was nice,'' Woods said. ``It was nice to end up under par for the day and under par for the tournament. Seven back, on this golf course, under these conditions we're going to have coming up, you can make that up.''

The forecast today includes a 60 percent chance of rain and winds of up to 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers) with the possibility of thunderstorms, according to weather.com.

Immelman, who shared the first-round lead with England's Justin Rose, had five birdies yesterday, including two in a row to finish his round. He's made just one bogey over the first 36 holes, the fewest in the field.

Snedeker, last season's U.S. PGA Tour rookie of the year, started the second round a stroke off the lead and matched Immelman yesterday with one bogey and five birdies, including two straight at the 17th and 18th holes to get to 7-under.

Mickelson's Four Birdies

Mickelson had four birdies, including one from about 30 feet at the 17th hole to move to 5-under through 36 holes. He narrowly missed birdie putts at Nos. 15 and 16. Flesch went from even-par to 5-under with a second-round 67 that featured three birdies and an eagle on the four par-5 holes.

``I played great,'' Flesch told reporters after his round. ``The way I kind of planned on playing this week was to attack the par 5s when I could.''

Poulter, who had a hole-in-one yesterday, is at 5-under after a second-round 69. Stephen Ames, who had a 2-under 70 yesterday, and Paul Casey, with a 69, are at 4-under after two rounds. Defending champion Zach Johnson finished 2-over after four bogeys in a six-hole stretch.

Fred Couples missed the cut by one stroke, failing to advance to weekend play for the first time in 24 appearances at the Masters. His 23 consecutive made-cuts at the Masters are tied with Gary Player for the most in tournament history.

Others to miss the cut included Aaron Baddeley, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Charles Howell III and Rory Sabbatini.

- Bloomberg News

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