Golf

Former Heritage champ Snedeker, Cabrera tied for Masters lead

Brandt Snedeker hits out of a bunker on the second hole during the third round of the Masters golf tournament Saturday in Augusta, Ga.
Brandt Snedeker hits out of a bunker on the second hole during the third round of the Masters golf tournament Saturday in Augusta, Ga. Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Brandt Snedeker could cite plenty of times he hasn't approached his profession the correct way.

He hasn't always practiced efficiently, he said. He couldn't manage his way around a golf course.

The 32-year-old believes those days are in the past, shoved behind by a newfound work ethic and approach to tournament golf -- especially majors. And now on the cusp of winning the Masters, a childhood dream, Snedeker wouldn't promise a victory today at Augusta National Golf Club. But he guaranteed he would go about his final round the correct way, the way he carefully laid out in his preparation for this event.

Snedeker, the 2011 Heritage champion, enters the final round 7 under and tied for the lead with 2009 champion Angel Cabrera. He grinded out 12 consecutive pars on a difficult Saturday setup before making birdie on three of his final six holes.

"I've spent 32 years of my life getting ready for tomorrow, and it's all been a learning process, and I am completely, 100 percent sure that I'm ready to handle no matter what happens tomorrow," Snedeker said. "I'm going to be disappointed if I don't win, period."

Tiger Woods, who started the day three shots off the lead, was assessed a two-stroke penalty Saturday morning after an improper drop during his third round. Woods dodged possible disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard by the rules committee's ruling, shot 2-under 70 Saturday and is four shots behind.

Cabrera birdied two of his final three holes to shoot 69 and join the final pairing. Australian Adam Scott is 6 under after also shooting 69. Fellow Aussies Marc Leishman and Jason Day are another shot back at 5 under.

Day led much of the third round, a birdie at 13 moving him to 7 under, but three-putted his final two holes for bogeys.

Cabrera, the 2007 U.S. Open champion, won the Masters in 2009 after a playoff with Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry. He's in position again after an 8-iron to six feet at No. 16 and a five iron to 12 feet on the final hole.

"Tomorrow it's more about execution and about patience," Cabrera said through a translator. "I don't think it's a big advantage that I've won before. It's more about patience."

Snedeker earned his opportunity after a setback derailed a fiery start to the season. After four top-three finishes to start the season, including a victory at Pebble Beach, the former Vanderbilt golfer had already earned $2.86 million.

A rib injury halted his momentum. Five weeks passed during recovery.

When Snedeker competed again, the results weren't encouraging. He missed the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Shell Houston Open before arriving in Augusta.

"I feel very, very close to where I was," Snedeker said. "The confidence is coming back."

Snedeker, who endured surgeries in 2010 and 2011 to repair a degenerative condition in his hips, didn't want to rush his return this year from what he called a strained intercostal muscle. He worked six days at Sea Island, Ga., where his instructor, Todd Anderson, is based, to prepare for the Masters.

In recent years, Snedeker has studied the statistical breakdowns of past Masters champions and set goals based on those numbers. He practiced hitting the ball right to left and leaving his misses right.

He wanted to attack the par-5s and drive the ball in the fairway. Snedeker entered the week 144th on the PGA Tour in driving distance and didn't want to approach Augusta National's treacherous greens facing a long approach from the rough.

The approach to Snedeker's sixth Masters was built on past experiences. His best finish here was third in 2008.

"I had no clue what I was doing in 2008," Snedeker said. "I had no game plan, no idea of when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, how to play this golf course the way you're supposed to play it.

"I have a completely clear focus of what I need to do tomorrow, clear set of goals that I need to hit. If I do that, I have a chance to win this golf tournament."

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