ON a day when for a while it looked like the Masters was going to be a Europe-dominated event just like it was in the last decade, two Americans finished at the top of the leaderboard. Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco will go out for today's round together in the final pair, their sixunder-par totals of 210 leaving them two clear of the field.
Alone in third place is England's Paul Casey, whose excellent 69 on Friday was followed up yesterday by an equally good 68. Casey, the 25-year-old who is bidding to become the first player since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 to win the Masters at his first attempt, strolled around Augusta yesterday as if he owned the place. He shot five birdies and dropped only one shot and he goes into today's round looking as sure of himself as ever.
"England are looking for another Masters champion and I would dearly love to fulfil that slot, " he said afterwards. "I had a lot of fun out there. I think pairings count so much and Mark O'Meara was great to play with.
"I played some great golf, A couple of putts got away, but I was having a real ball. It's great to show the American crowds what I can do. I have not let the course get me down and I am really looking forward to tomorrow." Sadly, his friend and compatriot Justin Rose had a horrible day yesterday. He started badly and got worse, bogeying five of the first seven holes and ending the day with an 81. After leading going into the day, he slid disastrously away. His day in the majors may well come eventually. It just won't be today.
Earlier, Padraig Harrington gave himself an outside chance at the title, shooting a 68 to move to level par after surviving the cut with nothing to spare.
The first man out on the course, Harrington birdied the second and eighth before chipping in at the 10th. He finished in superb fashion with a five-iron to 10 feet. He drained the putt ? one of the few birdies on the 18th all week ? to leave himself six shots behind the leaders.