Golf: Pate in record birdie spree

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The Independent Online
STEVE PATE, or "Volcano" as he is known, erupted for a record seven consecutive birdies on his way to a seven-under 65 in the third round of the Masters, putting himself in a position to win his first major.

Pate began his unprecedented streak at the short par-four seventh hole, kept it going through the notorious Amen Corner, and ended it at the 14th, where he hit his approach to the back of the green, leaving himself a 20-footer that he failed to hole. The run, which broke the previous record of six straight birdies held by three others, took Pate from a tie for 29th place after the second round into a tie for third. His feat was all the more remarkable because Pate had not played in the Masters since 1993, although he was joint third in 1991 and joint sixth the next year.

"Today it just seemed easy," said Pate, who spent most of 1996 at home "getting fat" after he broke his right wrist and hand in a car accident. The Californian, who injured his left wrist in a boating accident that year, also had to sit out most of the 1991 Ryder Cup after he was in an accident while being driven to a gala in a team limousine. He is so accident-prone that he was once struck by a deer while he was riding a bicycle in his driveway.

Pate took full advantage of excellent conditions during his streak, which he said he did not realise was a record until later. Only one of his putts was longer than 20 feet, a 50-footer on the 10th hole. "I'd probably make that once out of 25 tries," he said. He also had birdie putts of 18 inches on the ninth hole and 12 inches on the 12th, Augusta's famous watery par- three, the heart of Amen Corner where the tee shot is one of the most daunting in golf. "It could have gone in the front bunker or the azaleas in the back," Pate said of his tee shot, which almost went in the hole.

Pate, 37, said he has been playing better now that his "Volcano" days - prompted by his outbursts of anger - were behind him. The American, who also birdied the third hole and bogeyed the 17th, said he was looking forward to playing among the leaders in the final round. "I've always thought the Masters is probably my best chance to win a major."

Before he faced the pressure of the final round, Pate said he was going to watch the rest of the third round on television. "I'm going to lie on the couch and laugh at everybody else."