AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Miguel Angel Jimenez gave himself a belated 50th birthday gift: one of the best rounds ever for a senior golfer at Augusta National.
The Spaniard known as "The Mechanic" carved up the course on a picturesque Saturday at the Masters, shooting a 6-under 66 for the best round of the tournament thus far.
Jimenez finished up with a par at the 18th about the time leader Bubba Watson was teeing off at the adjacent first hole, having sliced a 10-shot deficit to just four by taking advantage of a warm day with barely a hint of the swirling breezes that can make Augusta so treacherous.
"I played very solid all day long," Jimenez said. "A beautiful day here."
Jimenez turned 50 in January and will make his debut on the Champions Tour at an event in suburban Atlanta next weekend.
In the meantime, he claimed a spot in the Masters record book, matching the lowest score ever by a player 50 and older. Ben Hogan was 54 when he shot 66 during the third round of the 1967 tournament, and Fred Couples matched it at age 50 during the opening round in 2010.
"Just because you are 50 does not mean you cannot play golf," said Jimenez, one of six 50-and-older golfers to make the Masters cut. "I'm still flexible. I hit the ball longer than ever."
Jimenez has never won a major championship but he's been a perennial contender in the biggest events, capturing a new generation of fans with his unique stretching routine before each round and his fondness for cigars and wine.
If he can put together another stellar round on Sunday, he sees no reason why he can't become the oldest major champion in golf history.
"The main thing is probably that I like what I am doing in my life," Jimenez said. "I enjoy competing."
That wasn't the only new entry in the Masters record book.
Gary Woodland matched the lowest score ever on the front nine with a 6-under 30, and actually got his score to 7 under on the day with another birdie at the 10th. But the 29-year-old American couldn't keep it going through Amen Corner, where a bogey at the 11th and a double-bogey on 12 stifled his momentum.
Woodland struggled down the stretch and settled for a 69, which left him with an even-par 216 for the tournament and seven strokes off Watson's 36-hole pace.
Watson started the third round with just his third bogey of the tournament, but he bounced back with an eagle 3 at the second after leaving his approach just 5 feet from the flag. That pushed him to 8 under, four shots ahead of his playing partner, Australia's John Senden, and 20-year-old American Jordan Spieth, who kept up the strong play in his Augusta debut with a birdie at No. 3.
Watson, looking to win his second Masters in three years, posted two rounds in the 60s for a 7-under 137 total at the midway point, good enough for the largest 36-hole advantage since Chad Campbell also went to the weekend up by three shots in 2006.
Defending champion Adam Scott was among the group four shots back after Friday, joined by Thomas Bjorn of Denmark and Jonas Blixt of Sweden.
Ricky Fowler was another player taking advantage of the prime scoring conditions, standing 5 under on the day with two holes left to play.
Early on, the patrons were roaring for Woodland, who became the first player since Phil Mickelson in the final round of the 2009 tournament to shoot 30 on the first nine holes. The only others to do it were K.J. Choi in 2004, Greg Norman in 1988 and Johnny Miller in 1975.
Woodland got off to a blistering start with a birdie at the first hole and an eagle at the second. On the par-3 sixth, he stuck his tee shot left of the flag and let it funnel down to about 15 feet from the cup. He rapped in the putt for another birdie.
Booming drives and short wedges left him with easy birdies at the ninth (a 4 footer) and 10th (from just 2 feet away). At that point, a huge gallery had hooked up with Woodland's group, the buzz quickly spreading around Augusta National.
Alas, the run ended when a tepid chip from behind the green at the 11th led to Woodland's first bogey. Still shaken from that flub, he made an even bigger mistake when his tee shot at the 12th rolled back into Rae's Creek.
Two more bogeys at 14 and 18 turned Woodland into a bit of an afterthought.
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