AUGUSTA, Ga. -- If David Duval doesn't come back to win the 64th Masters at Augusta National, he might point to one swing during yesterday's third round.
His downfall came when the ferocious winds that buffeted Augusta National knocked down his 8-iron tee shot on the par-3 12th hole, causing the ball to find its way into the pond in front of the green.
"I hit the same club as everybody else. I just happened to catch a gust that was not favorable for me," Duval said later. "It was bad luck."
Duval, who came into the hole tied with playing partner Vijay Singh for the lead at 5-under, saw what could turn out to be a crucial three-shot swing.
Singh made a 6-footer for birdie and Duval wound up with a bogey. Duval came off the course still three shots behind after each made one more birdie before play was suspended at 7: 45 p.m. last night.
"I really wished what happened hadn't happened on the 12th hole, obviously," said Duval, who is looking for his first major championship. "I played 14 holes and two shots on 15 and I haven't mis-hit a shot. Under the circumstances, I've played exceptionally well."
Asked about coming back to finish the round this morning, then taking a break before the start of the final round, Duval said, "It's not a big deal; it really isn't. You play your golf. That will take maybe an hour and then you leave for about three holes. It's a small price to pay for the opportunity to win this golf tournament."
This marks the third straight year that Duval is in contention going into the final round.
Last year, he was in the hunt, and briefly in the lead, before a double-bogey on the par-4 11th hole led to his demise. He finished tied for sixth. Two years ago, he had a three-shot lead with three holes to play before making a bogey on the 16th. He wound up losing by a shot to Mark O'Meara, who birdied three of the last four holes.
Blues for Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus came into the third round at even-par 144, fresh off a 2-under 70 on Friday that left him six shots behind Duval. But the charge he made in winning the 1986 Masters for his record sixth green jacket and the one that kept him on the leader board until the back nine on Sunday two years ago didn't happen yesterday. Nicklaus shot a 9-over-par 81, his worst score in 154 rounds at the Masters.
"I played pretty well on the front nine," said Nicklaus, who shot 1-over 37. "But the wind wasn't that bad. I only hit one bad shot, on No. 6. Then I got to the back nine and, 'Ugh'. I mis-hit only one golf shot, on 16, and still made a par. I shot 44 and never really mis-struck a golf shot."
Nicklaus called these the worst weather conditions he has ever had to contend with at Augusta National.
The conditions, he said, were even worse than anything he has experienced at his own tournament, The Memorial, which is known for horrible weather.
"This is not Memorial weather," he said. "We'd love this weather."
Weir's spirits high
Canadian left-hander Mike Weir came into the spotlight at last year's PGA Championship, where he led after three rounds before succumbing to the pressure of being chased by Tiger Woods. After a 2-under-par 70 yesterday that Weir called "the best round I've ever played," he is tied with Woods at 1-under-par 215.
"I've got as good a shot as anybody," said Weir, who won a week after the PGA Championship, in the Air Canada Championship. "If I'm within four or five shots, I want it [the course] to play as difficult as possible."
Looking on bright side
Tommy Aaron, who on Friday became the oldest player ever to make the cut at the Masters, had a tough day yesterday. Aaron, 63, shot a 14-over 86, including a 46 on the back nine.
"I may set two records, the oldest guy to make the cut and the guy to shoot the highest score," said Aaron. "It's disappointing to shoot the score, but I have one more chance to beat the score."
Sodden, but happy
While the players didn't enjoy the weather yesterday, Joel Fedder didn't seem to mind. The former tax attorney and real estate developer from Pikesville seemed oblivious to the rain pelting down on his head. The reason? He was enthralled with his first trip to the Masters.
"I've come to the holy shrine of golf," said Fedder, who came at the invitation of David Bavar, a friend from Pikesville who was making his third visit. "I'm awe-struck."
Though he didn't feel it, Fedder was also quite wet.