- Ray Cox The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The top of the leaderboard after 54 holes of the 81st Masters on Saturday eventually turned into a who’s who of professional golf, with 16 players within six shots of the lead and seven of the top nine boasting winning pedigrees.
Sunday’s final round promises to be one for the ages sure to bring the expected roars to Augusta National.
Two of the best players who have yet to win a major (Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler) are choosing Sunday attire that will be compatible with a green jacket, as will former Masters winners Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Charl Schwartzel as they all seek a second victory at Augusta National.
And then there’s England’s Justin Rose. The 2013 U.S. Open champion and Rio Olympics gold medalist shot the round of the day (67) and quietly closed in with a back-nine 31 that included birdies in five of his final seven holes. By the end of round he was tied atop the leaderboard with Garcia.
“I think that the key to the strong finish was the patience that I showed on the front nine,” Rose said. “We were playing well, but we weren’t really making inroads towards the lead, and chose to stay patient … and it kind of paid off. Doesn’t always pay off, but on this occasion it paid off.”
End of line?
Ernie Els, the two-time U.S. Open and two-time British Open champion who turns 48 in October, is near the end of his Masters appearances, barring a significant change in his play the next 12 months. His exemption from his second British Open victory expires after this year, and his 83 on Saturday (43-40) dropped him to last in the field, meaning he’ll play with a marker in the final round. His only red figure was a birdie on No. 18 after double bogeys on Nos. 16-17.
Winners of the 2016 majors, all first-time majors winners, and where they stand after 54 holes:
2016; Winner; 2017 pos.
Masters; Danny Willett; MC
U.S. Open; Dustin Johnson; WD
British; Henrik Stenson; MC
PGA; Jimmy Walker; T17
Fire, fall back
Expected moving-day charges that failed to materialize:
Phil Mickelson: Birdied 1-2, still ballooned to a 39 on the front and shot 74. Position: T21
Rory McIlroy: Birdied 2-3 and shot 71. Position: T11
Matt Kuchar: Bogeyed 3 and 5, shot 71. Position: T11
Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay III, a former college teammate of Tiger Woods, predicted on the Rich Eisen Show on Friday that Woods might return in May after the Players Championship. That would put Woods in one of the two PGA Tour events in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Sergio Garcia’s collective score to par in all of his previous Masters third rounds, including a 75 or worse in nine of his previous 13 third rounds. He changed the conversation with a solid 70, including four birdies and two bogeys.
Rounds in major tournaments before he ever led after a completed round by Rickie Fowler, who was tied for the lead after 36 holes. A solid 71 dropped him a shot behind after 54 holes.
Sunny, 78 degrees, winds no more than 5 mph, but from a different direction than the rest of the week.
The final words
“I’m going to need my best score around here, 65, and I’m going to need something like that, if not lower, to have a chance (Sunday). I’ll be able to tell you better (Sunday) night whether those missed opportunities have ruined my chances. But I’ll have to go out and play a good round of golf.” — Rory McIlroy, who needs a Masters victory to complete the career grand slam. He is six shots back, but tied in a gang of six players for 11th.