The major with a tradition unlike any other is set for a final round unlike any other.
Moving day at The Masters was full of big moves — soft greens wind reduced to calm breezes and talent galore provided some low, low numbers during Saturday’s third round.
There were three 64s and one of them belonged to Tony Finau who posted 11-under par and will find himself playing in the final group on Sunday with tournament leader Francesco Molinari and the legendary Tiger Woods.
Yes, they will be playing in threesomes and they’ll start very, very early with an un-Masters-like starting time of 7:45 a.m. The field will start off both nines in an attempt to beat a monster storm that is rolling toward Georgia. The storm slowed somewhat to the west and gave the committee a slight window if the field went off early and that’s exactly what they’ll be doing. Everyone will be up early, including the entire CBS staff for a broadcast that will start at 9 a.m.
“I’ll probably get up around 3:45 (a.m.),” said Woods, whose third round 67 was his best effort at Augusta National in eight years. “I played well, putted well,” Woods conceded. Indeed, his putter was on and got him to 11-under par, two back of Molinari, who played head-to-head with Woods in the final round of the Open Championship last July at Carnoustie, where Molinari prevailed.
Woods will prep early: “I’ll get the mind and body ready for tomorrow and get after it a little bit earlier than we’re used to,” he said.
The four-time champion’s round started out slow — he was one-over through the first five holes then he birdied the sixth and would play his final 12 holes in five-under par for a 67.
Finau was the third player to shoot eight-under par on Saturday. Patrick Cantlay went out early and shot his with a birdie on only one of the four par fives. Then Webb Simpson came in with his. Molinari’s bogey-free 66 was the next best round on the day when birdies ran rampant.
After Molinari, Finau and Woods, three-time major champion Brooks Koepka will go in the next-to-last threesome. He eagled the 15th after a monster drive and a nine-approach that left him just eight feet for the three that got him to 10-under par and a round of 69. He’ll play with Ian Poulter (68) and Simpson — both are nine-under.
Dustin Johnson failed to take advantage of the day. His 70 left him in a group at eight-under with Matt Kuchar (68), Justin Harding (70), Xander Schauffele (70) and Louie Oosthuizen (71).
Adam Scott (72) and Rickie Fowler (68) start six back of the leader.
Which brings the question — how far back is too far back? Form says the winner will come out of the top five players on Sunday. But the course will remain soft although the wind will pick up significantly with the approaching storm front. Wind is what can make the course play so much more difficult and that will increase as the day goes on. So will the chances of rain then storms.
It’s basically a race against the weather.
They’re hoping the play will go fast enough to produce a Green Jacket winner early Sunday afternoon.