Imagine, if such chaos can break out in 60 seconds what is possible over the great expanse of a Masters Sunday, when it all really hits the fan.
Matsuyama, the Masters low amateur in 2011 now in search of riches, will have the most to say about that. The lead that Rose held for the first two days is now Matsuyama’s to protect. His immaculate 65 on Saturday – one eagle, five birdies, no hiccups – left him with a substantial four-shot lead going to the final round at 11 under.
Lined up four back of Matsuyama at 7 under is a most eclectic quartet: Rose; Schauffele; Marc Leishman, and Will Zalatoris. Only one of those – Schauffele with a 68 – broke 70 Saturday. Only one – Rose – has experience winning a major (the 2013 British Open). And nobody knows what to expect of Zalatoris, both a PGA Tour and Masters rookie. Meet the ultimate wild card.
This Matsuyama fellow, though, is no accident. Not here, where he now holds the second longest streak of par-or-better rounds at the Masters in this field (at 10, behind just Jon Rahm’s 14).
“I love playing here, and hopefully I can make it 11 tomorrow,” he said.
Saturday featured a 78-minute weather delay as well as myriad disruptions of a human nature. CBS killed time by showing some of Tiger Woods’ 2019 victory here but went back to the live action a bit after 5 p.m. even at the risk of ratings plummeting. There was, however, much of interest to watch.
There was the sight of Justin Thomas’ ball being washed away down the rain-swollen tributary in front of the 13th green - next stop Savannah. And with it went his reasonable chances. His triple-bogey 8 there sent him reeling to a third-round 75. Four shots off the lead at the beginning of Saturday, he was eight back by the end.
He kept the explanation simple enough so that every hack could understand what happened: “I just chunked it.”
Corey Conners had a hole-in-one on No. 6 and clanged one off the flagstick at No. 18. Canadians are supposed to be unfailingly nice, but this one seemed intent upon tearing up the place. He’ll get a large crystal bowl for the ace and a chance to contend for some green clothing Sunday – his 68 on Saturday left him five back of Matsuyama.
Jordan Spieth, who chips in the way other people take vitamins, had his second of this tournament, canning one from 22 yards out on No. 10 for a birdie. That slightly mitigated a sloppy double bogey three holes earlier. He frankly floundered, shooting 72 and losing ground. He’ll start Sunday six back of Matsuyama.
And now for something completely different from Rose. His habit through the first two rounds had been to start slowly, then rally greatly. This time he opted to start fast, then fade. His tactics didn’t work as well in reverse. Birdies on his first two holes were quickly forgotten over the long haul of his even-par 72.
Matsuyama will be chasing some world history Sunday in his attempt to become the first Asian player to win the Masters, and only the second to win one of golf’s majors. He’d be the first Japanese player to do either.
Ah, but his golfing experience is not really so different than anyone else chasing him Sunday. As he explained his Masters memories while growing up in Japan, they rang universally familiar.
“I have a lot of great memories watching the Masters as a young boy,” he said. “First time I watched, Tiger Woods was the winner. Another great memory is when he chipped in at 16 down the hill, that putt just going in (2005). I was always dreaming someday I could play here.”
Oh, he’s here, smack in the center of the Sunday Masters maelstrom. His lead is formidable. But things have a way of changing in an instant around here.