Tiger’s tee shot at 4 isn’t hit flush. His iron only just creeps onto the large green, the pin at the rear, then falls back off the front. Molinari responds by whip-cracking his tee shot pin high to 20 feet. He’s looking steady right now. Finau hits a similar tee shot, his ball just toppling off the back of the green, but not by much. Up on the elongated par-four 5th, Koepka sends another wild drive right, this time over the patrons. He’ll need another stroke of luck there.
Molinari trundles his putt from the fringe to a couple of feet, so that’s his third par from three holes. But that leaves the door ajar for Tiger. He’s got a ten-footer … and he walks it in! A first birdie in this final group! And he’s just one stroke behind Molinari now. The crowd react accordingly. Finau does well to get up and down from just off the back for his par. Meanwhile a fine two-putt par from distance by Koepka on 4.
-13: Molinari (3)
-12: Woods (3)
-11: Koepka (4), Finau (3)
-9: Schauffele (4), Simpson (4)
Kuchar can’t get up and down from the side of 4, and hands back the shot he picked up at 2. He’s -8, and walks off the green wearing a fixed smile. Bogey for Oosthuizen on the difficult 5th, and he slips to -8. Back on 3, Molinari lays up with his tee shot so he can hit a full wedge into the green. He clips a fine one to 20 feet. Tiger sends his wedge inside, though: a match-play style putting shoot-out coming up! Finau, having driven into the first cut down the left, can’t impart any spin on the ball and sends his second through the green and over the back.
Another birdie for Patrick Cantlay, who responds to a dropped shot at 4 by rolling home a monster right-to-left curler on 5. He’s -8. Meanwhile a break for Koepka on 3, his ball having taken a kick back in from the gallery. Then another stroke of luck, as he chases his chip through the green, the ball threatening to drop down a bank. It topples off the green, but sticks on the turf and doesn’t go far. Two putts from the fringe, and he stays in a tie for second.
-13: Molinari (2)
-11: Koepka (3), Finau (2), Woods (2)
-9: Oosthuizen (4), Kuchar (3), Schauffele (3), Simpson (3)
Molinari knocks his chip from the front of 2 to ten feet. Finau lobs over the sand and the flag to eight feet, a fine shot from where he’d left himself, though the putt coming back is treacherous. Tiger’s left with a 60-footer, and does well to get his first putt to eight feet. Finau’s birdie attempt slips by the side; par. Ditto Molinari; par. And Tiger makes his par too. He’d have taken that upon watching his drive whistle into trouble. Meanwhile a third birdie in four holes for Mickelson, this time at 6, and he’s -8. Not quite out of it yet! Maybe!
Molinari cracks a fairway metal to the edge of the 2nd green. Finau hits a clunker that leaves his ball in front of the big bunker on the right, the pin tucked behind with not much green to play with. Tiger’s third reaches the green, but only just, and he’s left with a long putt up for birdie. Up on 3, Koepka lashes his drive into the punters down the right, while ahead, Schauffele needs two chips to get up the big bank at the front of the green. He nearly holes the second for birdie, hitting the flagstick, but the ball rolls on ten feet past. He can’t make the putt coming back, and that’s a bogey that puts an end to that flying start. He’s -9.
Tiger’s ball is dry, but down a bank of pine straw. He takes his medicine and chips back out onto the fairway. Up on the green, Ian Poulter’s approach takes a hot bounce through the green and over the back. It’s a tricky chip up a bank, with not much of a downhill green to work with. His ball rolls to the fringe behind the flag. Two putts later, and that’s a bogey that drops him back to -8. Birdie for Brooks Koepka, though, and he joins Finau and Woods in a share of second at -11.
Mickelson’s not going to win this Masters, and become the oldest major winner of all time by doing so. The 1968 PGA winner Julius Boros’s record will stand for at least another month. But Phil still knows how to thrill the crowds: he lashes his second at 6 from 215 yards into the green, sending his ball rolling serenely towards the cup. It’s surely going in for eagle … but it stops one dimple short. He’ll breathe on that lightly for his birdie to move to -7.
That par save on 1 should stand Molinari in good stead. A real nerve-settler after a jumpy first putt. He sends his drive at 2 down the track. Finau launches his tee shot many miles. And finally Tiger, who got away with quite a few wild ones yesterday. He’ll need the big stick to behave better today, because his outrageous luck on 11 and 13 yesterday surely can’t last. And oh dear, he flays his drive into the trees down the left. There’s water running down the hill there, too. God speed, Tiger.
Birdie for Matt Kuchar at 2. And another birdie for his playing partner Xander Schauffele, a major champion in waiting for sure. Speaking of which, Rickie Fowler has started birdie-par-par, the latest saved by a fine 15-footer on 3. He’s -8.
-13: Molinari (1)
-11: Finau (1), Woods (1)
-10: Schauffele (2), Koepka (1)
-9: Oosthuizen (2), Kuchar (2), Simpson (1), Poulter (1)
Molinari is able to get his putter to his ball from the fringe at the back of 1. A rush of blood, combined with a few jangling nerves, sends the putt a good 15 feet past the hole. Tiger’s up next from 25 feet. The birdie putt doesn’t drop, and he leaves himself with a testing four-footer. Back to Molinari, whose right-to-left uphill slider drops gracefully in the cup! What a save! So much for nerves, calm as you like. He’s still only dropped one shot all week! Tiger meanwhile tidies up for par, while Finau gets up and down from just off the front. Pars all round. Here’s Grant Tennille with a Stateside punditry update: “Sir Nick Faldo points out that while Molinari held off Tiger at Carnoustie, the latter’s support here is massive, and just how the former will react to some trademark roars on Woods’ behalf could be another layer of intrigue in a final round that already boasts a surfeit of them.”
Simpson does extremely well to lash his ball out of tree-related bother on 1 and onto the fringe of the green. He works his third up to five feet, and scrambles a fine par. Opening par-fours too for Koepka and Poulter. And behind them, the final group take to the stage. Tiger and Molinari find the fairway with 3-woods, while Finau skelps his drive onto pine straw down the left. Finau chases his second up to the fringe, Molinari goes just over the back, and Tiger finds the heart of the green. Meanwhile bogey for Spieth at 5, who slips back to -6, and birdie for Rory at 15. He’s finally putting something together, moving to -4, but it’s all way too late.
Hole-in-one for DeChambeau!
It’s the 21st hole-in-one at 16 in the history of the Masters! Bryson DeChambeau was an inch away from acing this hole on Thursday; well, he’s gone one inch better on Sunday! He lands his tee shot 20 feet to the right of the flag, and the tilt of the green does the rest, gathering the ball to the left and a little bit backwards, and rolling gently into the cup! No more than he’s deserved for lighting up this tournament, despite his occasional struggles. After his double bogey, double bogey start today, he’s birdied 12, birdied 15 and now aced 16. A card of 6-6-2-5-4-4-1. The young Californian’s smile lights up that corner of Augusta on this overcast day.
A fast start for Patrick Cantlay, who shot 64 yesterday and looks in the mood again. Birdies at 1 and 2, and he’s -8. An up-and-down start for Phil the Thrill, who bogeys the opening hole but climbs back to -6 with birdie at 3. Kevin Kisner is three under for his round through six holes, having birdied 11, 13 and 15: he’s -5. And another birdie for the amateur Viktor Hovland, this time at 16, and the US Amateur champion is closing in on that Silver Cup. At -4 he’s four clear of Alvaro Ortiz (E thru 4*), five ahead of Takumi Kanaya (+1 thru 6*) and nine clear of Devon Bling (+5 thru 3*). All four have been fantastic, though: this is the first time for two decades that four amateurs have made it through to the weekend.
Brooks Koepka, the reigning US Open and PGA champion, crashes his opening drive down Tea Olive. Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open 2018 Players champion, is forced to shout “fore left!” And finally it’s Ian Poulter, who is looking to become the first player over the age of 43 to win his maiden major since Roberto De Vicenzo triumphed in the Open at Hoylake in 1967. He splits the fairway. Meanwhile up on the green, Xander Schauffele, who stuttered towards the end of his round yesterday with bogeys at 15 and 18, repairs some of the damage with an opening birdie. Justin Harding matches that, the pair moving to -9.
Rory nearly follows up his eagle with birdie on 14, having found the centre of the green in two. But his uphill putt from 30 feet dies to the right, pace rather than line the issue. He swishes his putter through the air in frustration, less over that putt than his erratic display this week, I’ll be bound. He stays at -3. And a third birdie for the irrepressible Jordan Spieth, this time at 4, and what he’d give to play his first nine holes this week once more. The 2015 champion is -7.
Justin Thomas was just a roll away from draining a long eagle putt on 2. That birdie moved him to -7. His playing partner Jon Rahm matches him; he’s -7 too. Meanwhile in too-little-too-late news, Rory McIlroy makes eagle at 13 to move to -3. His second only just got over Rae’s Creek, but the pin’s near the front and his ball having crept on, a ten-foot putt was all that was left.
Feels strange that, despite this early hour, the top of the Sunday leader board is beginning to stir. Birdies for Louis Oosthuizen and Rickie Fowler at Tea Olive, and here we go!
-11: Finau, Woods
-9: Oosthuizen (1), Simpson, Poulter
-8: D Johnson (1), Fowler (1), Kuchar, Harding, Schauffele
-7: Day (2), Thomas (2), Scott (1), Cantlay (1)
-6: Spieth (3), Rahm
Birdie for the Norwegian amateur Viktor Hovland at 15. He’s beginning to put some daylight between himself and his Silver Cup rivals. He’s -3 through five holes today. Takumi Kanaya (4*) and Alvaro Ortiz (2*) are both four shots behind at +1, while Devon Bling has bogeyed his opening hole, the 10th, and slips to +3. This is a race worth keeping an eye on: past winners of the Silver Cup include Cary Middlecoff, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, all of whom went on to become a major champion. Hovland and Kanaya in particular are very highly regarded by those who keep an eye on such things.
Another birdie for Jordan Spieth! Greenside of the par-five 2nd in two, he chips over the big bunker guarding the front left and rolls his ball across the massive green to nine feet. In goes the putt, and he’s -6. I wonder if he’ll start to think about that five-over front nine on Thursday? If he’d hit the ground running, he’d be right in the mix for a second green jacket! He was supposedly a spent force coming into this tournament. Nope! I don’t think so!
Mac Millings with the weather. “The weather through my window here in South Carolina – a mere two hours and 22 minutes from Augusta National in current traffic – suggests that your thunderstorm fears are entirely unfounded. At the moment, it’s partially cloudy with a couple of trees, and a lot of sun right in my eyes. Course hazards include an occasional car, and a group of four ladies walking up and down in running gear.” I know, I know, but we couldn’t afford Michael Fish.
Viktor Hovland, the US Amateur champion, is leading the race for the Silver Cup. He’s started out with four pars today, 10 through 13, and he remains at -2 overall. His nearest challenger, Takumi Kanaya, who was leading for a while on Thursday, opened bogey-bogey at 10 and 11, and he slips to +1. Alvaro Oritz is +1 overall having opened with par at 10, while Devon Bling has only just started his round. He’s +2. “The early start is perfect for us over here,” yawns Matt Dony, still in his slippers, a sliver of yolk from a fried-egg sandwich running down the front of his pyjamas. “The Masters so often delivers on drama, but that drama often comes late at night. This way, we can get it all done and dusted, and be able to focus on Match Of The Day 2. Seeing Tiger up there, right in the mix, warms the cockles of my old, cynical heart. I’d love to see him win just one more major. Just one more flash of absolute, mind-boggling genius. Go on, Tiger. One more time.”
Jordan Spieth has definitely rediscovered his mojo this week. His form has been appalling of late, and a front nine of 40 on Thursday didn’t augur well. But the brilliant young street-fighting Texan loves duking it out with Augusta National – in five previous visits, his record here is a scarcely believable T2-1-T2-T11-3 – and he’s since shown that you can’t keep a genius down for long. Back in 35 on Thursday to limit the damage, then rounds of 68 and 69. He’s opened today with a birdie – he’s-5 now – and will fancy himself for a low score today that’ll catapult him up the leader board and keep that Augusta record looking as pretty as a bed of azaleas.
Easy to forget about first-round co-leader Bryson DeChambeau. Especially if you didn’t read the preamble to this report. That closing run of his opening 66 – birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie – could easily have featured three eagles. Tot up the lengths of the tap-ins at 15, 16 and 18, and it’d be a couple of feet at best. At that point the thoughtful 25-year-old Californian looked a reasonable bet for his breakthrough major. His eye was in. But it all fell apart midway during his second round, when his flat stick turned stone cold. Five shots dropped in six holes around the turn led to a 75, and yesterday’s 73 wasn’t much better in the context of all the low scoring going on around him. And his putter hasn’t warmed up at all this morning: a three-putt from 15 feet at 10, the result of flying his first a good seven feet past, ends in a double bogey. That’s a score he’s repeated at 11, after finding the lake guarding the front-left of the famous downhill par-four White Dogwood. To be fair, the 10th, Camellia, is playing the hardest hole on the course, while 11 has been the third hardest all week. But still, that’s four over after two holes this morning. Thursday seems an awfully long time ago. He’s now +2 overall.
It’s fitting that the first birdie of the final round has been made by Patton Kizzire, one of this tournament’s early pacesetters. The man from Montgomery, Alabama led for a while on the opening day, before bogeying the last and posting a 70. Another 70 on Friday kept him on the fringes of the action, but a 73 during yesterday’s free-scoring bonanza sent him back into the pack. Still, he’s got some upward momentum, having birdied 16 and 18 yesterday afternoon. This opening-hole birdie today, reward for a fine approach from 170 yards at Tea Olive to ten feet, sends him up to -4, a tie for 22nd. He’s well on course to record his best finish at a major, which is currently tied-49th at the 2016 PGA.
The play-off format. If the leaders are tied after 72 manic holes, it’ll be time for a final mano-a-mano showdown. The Masters is the only major that goes immediately to sudden death. Just as Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose did in 2017, they’d play the 18th again, then if no result it’d be on to the 10th. And if there’s still no splitting them, it’s back to the 18th, then the 10th, then the 18th, and so on, and so forth, until a winner emerges or the wrath of God crackles down in electrical form and we’re forced to wait until Monday. Like I say, fingers crossed. “Leaders off at 2.20?!” splutters Simon McMahon, iced tea everywhere. “It’s the Open Championship. In April. With added sunshine. And patrons. Plus pimento cheese!” You sell it well. I’m in.
The weather. It’s warm at Augusta right now, if overcast. It’s expected to get a little bit windy today, the breeze picking up as the day goes on. But nothing too dramatic yet. The proper storms, thunder, lightning and all, are expected to rock up at 3pm local time, give or take, which gives Tiger, Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari, the last group out at 9.20am, a good five hours to get round. And then they can cram in a quick sudden-death play-off if needs be. Plenty of time. Fingers crossed.
There’s only one way to start. With the possible exception of Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan, the best music ever put out by CBS. How does it feel?
Good morning Augusta!
The 83rd Masters Tournament has been one hell of a ride already. The laser-guided denouement to Bryson DeChambeau’s opening round of 66 set the tone: inches from eagle, centimetres from hole-in-one, chip in for birdie, flagstick hit flush and millimetres from eagle. Brooks Koepka also shot a 66. Since then, there’s been a 65 for Xander Schauffele and 64s for Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau. Yesterday the field shot its lowest cumulative score in Masters history. Current leader Francesco Molinari (70-67-66) has bogeyed just one of the first 54 holes, while Tiger Woods is chasing his first major for 11 years despite driving like a blindfolded Severiano Ballesteros. Fiction has nothing on golf.
It’s been sensational … and to think, the Masters historically doesn’t really get going until the back nine today! Shame about the thunder and lightning heading for Augusta this afternoon, forcing us all into this early start, the players going out in threes on split tees, hoping to get the job done and dusted before the climate closes in. It’s sunny all next week too; typical, huh. But hey, you can’t have everything. Because look what the golfing gods have served up! This promises to be one of the most memorable Masters Sundays in history. Here’s to the weather holding off, and the final round delivering in style. Don’t go anywhere else: it’s on!
-11: Finau, Woods
-9: Simpson, Poulter
-8: Kuchar, Harding, Schauffele, Oosthuizen, D Johnson
-7: Fowler, Scott
-6: Cantlay, Olesen, Thomas, Mickelson, Rahm, Day
-5: Watson, Bjerregaard
-4: Spieth, Fleetwood, Conners