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Augusta, Ga. - The subplots were popping up fast and furious Saturday in the third round of the Masters.
The world watched to see how Tiger Woods handled his emotions on the course after receiving a 2-stroke penalty several hours before his tee time. A trio of Australian players jockeyed for position striving to become the first from that country to slip on a green jacket. Fred Couples, at 53, tried to ride the constant shouts of "Fred-die!" to the top of the leader board.
Meanwhile, Brandt Snedeker, with the mane of blond hair squirting in all directions from under his visor, kept at it over the Augusta National Golf Club waiting for birdie chances, and succeeded on three down the stretch to finish the day tied with Angel Cabrera for the 54-hole lead.
Snedeker, who was the hottest player on the PGA Tour earlier this year until a rib injury sidelined him, and Cabrera, who has won a Masters and a U.S. Open and nothing else in his tour career, shot 3-under-par 69s to share the top at 7-under 209.
Members of the Australian invasion held the next three spots. Adam Scott, seeking a chance at redemption after his shocking collapse in last year's British Open, carded a 69 for 210. Jason Day, the leader at the halfway point, bogeyed 17 and 18 for a 73 to tie Marc Leishman (72) for fourth at 211.
Woods, who almost didn't get a chance to continue his quest for a fifth Masters crown after a rules controversy that cost him a penalty but not a disqualification, made a pair of late par saves for a 70 and stayed in the hunt at 213.
"It started out different, obviously," Woods said of his day. "But I'm right there in the ballgame. I'm four back with a great shot to win this championship."
Couples, who played in the last group with Day, played his final five holes in 5-over and had a 77 for a 216 total.
Snedeker, 32, winner of the 2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links championship at the now-closed Blue Heron Pines East in Galloway Township, N.J., did a terrific job of managing his game and staying patient despite diabolical hole locations and speedy greens.
The Nashville, Tenn., native, who tied for third here in 2008, started out with 12 straight pars before picking up vital birdies at 13, 15 and 16.
"You have to really be on top of your game because you can put the ball in some really bad spots," he said. "Patience is obviously the word of the week every week. Y'all get tired of hearing it but I can't underscore how important that is around this place. I just stayed patient, waited for something good to happen, and it did."
Cabrera, 43, birdied the 16th and 18th holes to get himself into Sunday's final pairing with Snedeker. The eventual Masters champion has come out of the final group in 19 of the last 22 years.
The Australians, however, will be looming right behind. Scott might be the most motivated of the three, still carrying the memory of last year's British Open where he blew a four-stroke lead with four holes to play and lost to Ernie Els.
"If I'm in the same position I was in at the Open last year, then I'm obviously playing an incredible round and I'll just be trying to finish the job," Scott said.
So will Snedeker, who left the property Saturday night with a ton of confidence.
"I've spent 32 years of my life getting ready for" Sunday, he said. "It's all a learning process and I am completely, 100 percent sure that I'm ready to handle no matter what happens. I'm going to be disappointed if I don't win, period. I'm not here to get a good finish. I'm not here to finish top-five. I'm here to win."