Through three rounds at Augusta National, Bubba Watson is tied at the top with 20-year old Masters rookie Jordan Spieth, while a slew of players seeking their first major championship win are giving chase.
Low early numbers
The big story early in the day on Saturday was the low numbers being fired by many of the players who got to see the course before the leaders teed off. Miguel Angel Jimenez posted a 66, while Rickie Fowler got in with a 67, which are the two lowest scores so far in this year’s tournament and got both players back into contention. The conditions were probably the easiest that we’ve seen all week, and the pins weren’t as difficult as they had been in the first two rounds either. Despite the low numbers continuing into the afternoon wave, the two big names that people expected to play well weren’t in great form.
Bubba and Adam struggle
Yes, he still has a share of the lead, but Bubba Watson really struggled at points on Saturday and he’s actually quite fortunate that he’s still in the position he’s in. On some level, this had to be expected as Watson has had difficulty closing out tournaments in the past, with a 1-8 record when holding a 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour, but it was still a little surprising. Everyone knows that Watson absolutely smashes the ball from the tee, and that he shapes the ball better than anyone, but the short game is usually solid as well. Today though, the short game and the putter just left him, and then towards the end of the round, the long game went missing too. Of all of the courses that these guys see every year, Augusta National is the one that will punish them the most if they're off even by a fraction, and that's what we saw today with Bubba Watson.
What wasn’t expected in the least was the way that defending champion Adam Scott played. Scott had an awful front nine yesterday and got it back with a quality run on the back nine, but things just never got going for him at all on moving day, and now at six shots back, he’s probably too far out of it to make a run at defending his title.
Spieth looks to make history
In terms of the guys we saw in the last few groups, no one had a more up and down round than Spieth, and it’s understandable considering the pressure involved in playing in your first major, and being so close to the lead on Saturday. Yes, he got a little loose on some shots, especially through Amen Corner, but for the most part, he held it together and didn’t lose his cool, which is something he’s mentioned as being an issue in the past. He was able to get in with a 2-under par 70 to match Watson at the top of the leaderboard.
Of the 24 first time participants in the Masters this year, no one received more attention in the lead-up to the event than Spieth, and rightfully so. The guy has been a star since he was in high school, and now at 20 years old, he’s got a win on the PGA Tour and has a chance to make history at the biggest golf tournament in the world. If he can win tomorrow, he’ll be the youngest player to win the Masters, besting the previous record set by Tiger Woods back in 1997. Spieth winning is the storyline that the golf media is definitely hoping for tomorrow evening.
The TV coverage
Of all of the golf tournaments held every year, the Masters is the one that seems to really get it when it comes to their digital coverage, as they give multiple viewing options during the event outside of the main broadcast. With that said, one of the best things about this tournament is the way that the CBS crew broadcasts the event, but man, today was rough. They started the day being blacked out in New York, and throughout the round, they were consistently behind the streaming options available on masters.com. Former champion Fred Couples was getting it together on the back nine and for some reason, CBS was showing highlights of earlier holes instead of showing live golf, which means that Couples wasn’t shown at all until he was strolling up the 18th fairway. This needs to be better tomorrow.
We’re only one day away from crowning the latest Masters winner at Augusta National, and we could be looking at an historic finish. You can’t get much better than that.