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Masters Day 3 Recap: Spieth catches Bubba at the top

Jack Gruber / USA TODAY Sports

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.

Current Leaderboard

  • T1. Bubba Watson -5
  • T1. Jordan Spieth -5
  • T3. Matt Kuchar -4
  • T3. Jonas Blixt -4
  • T5. Miguel Angel Jimenez -3
  • T5. Rickie Fowler -3

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 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.

Other Notes

  • While a lot of the focus was on Spieth today, some credit really needs to be given to Jonas Blixt, who is also making his Masters debut this week. He was 1-under par today in the second to last group and is only one shot back of the lead.
  • Looking at the leaderboard, the three most dangerous guys that I can pick out as challengers to Spieth and Watson are all looking for their first major championship. Kuchar, Fowler and Lee Westwood have all had chances to win one in the past, with Kuchar and Westwood especially struggling when trying to hold a major lead. These guys all have the ability to go low and are really dangerous in the chasing position.
  • Early this morning, Rory McIlroy went out with a marker as his partner due to the uneven number of players remaining after the cut, and the marker actually beat him by a shot, 70 to 71. That pretty much sums up Rory’s week to this point.
  • As much as I’m sure all of us would have liked to see the 54-year old Couples keep it going, his Saturday struggles at Augusta have been well documented. Even though he didn’t balloon like usual, the 73 today wasn’t his best effort and it’s hard to picture a scenario in which he gets himself into contention tomorrow afternoon. One thing for him to keep in mind though: at four shots back, he’s not totally out of it, just like 46-year old Jack Nicklaus climbed back in from four down and won here back in 1986.
  • So, how far can we go down the leaderboard and say that someone has a chance? The last winner to come from outside the top-10 was Art Wall back in 1959, but I think that anyone within five shots has a chance tomorrow if they can go low early. That would take it down to Ian Poulter and Gary Woodland, who are tied for 14th.

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.

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