Masters 2021 Reside Updates: Prime of Leaderboard Will get Tighter

Hideki Matsuyama has met a Masters nightmare. He arrived on the tee field of No. 15 with a four-stroke lead. However a bogey took him to 12 beneath par for the event, and Xander Schauffele made birdie. Matsuyama’s lead is down to 2 strokes.

Hideki Matsuyama bumped into hassle on No. 15: A shot landed within the water. His companion for the day, Xander Schauffele, trails by 4 strokes, and Matsuyama has not but escaped the 15th.

A little bit of latest historical past about Hideki Matsuyama: He was main on the Gamers Championship in Florida in March 2020 when organizers canceled it due to the coronavirus, which was gaining a foothold in the USA and prompting a near-total shutdown of sports activities throughout the nation.

Let’s feed the talk over what works in golf and particularly at Augusta Nationwide. Of the 5 gamers with the very best common drive distances this event, only one, Jon Rahm, is at the moment within the high 5 on the leaderboard.

Contemplate the place the event can be had Xander Schauffele not made a double bogey on No. 5. After making birdie on 12 and 13, he’s 5 strokes behind Hideki Matsuyama.

Hideki Matsuyama gave again a stroke with a bogey on the 12th gap. In the meantime, there’s a three-way tie for second: Jordan Spieth, Will Zalatoris and Xander Schauffele all path Matsuyama by 5 pictures.

Will Zalatoris had an unlucky outing on No. 12 and bogeyed the outlet. Hideki Matsuyama’s lead has grown to 6 strokes.

Hideki Matsuyama led the pack as he reached the back 9.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

The Masters Event discipline has rounded the flip at Augusta Nationwide Golf Membership, and Hideki Matsuyama’s lead is constructing ever so barely. However he’s simply now coming into probably the most fearsome stretches in all of golf.

Now at 13 beneath par for the event after a birdie to complete the primary half of his remaining spherical, Matasuyama has a five-stroke lead in the beginning of the again 9. Will Zalatoris, who’s enjoying in his first Masters, has not altogether light and is at eight beneath. Jon Rahm, who simply completed his spherical with a 66, rode a six-stroke swing on the day right into a tie for third place with Xander Schauffele.

Only one former Masters winner is within the high 5 at this level: Jordan Spieth is likely one of the fifth-place contenders at 5 beneath for the event. He has shot even par up to now within the remaining spherical.

And Justin Rose, who led after Thursday and Friday’s rounds, can also be tied for fifth place. He’s two over for the day.

After birdies on Nos. Eight and 9, Matsuyama is 13 beneath par and leads by 5 strokes.

Look out, people: Jon Rahm has now picked up six strokes in the present day and lurched right into a tie for third. Hideki Matsuyama nonetheless has a five-shot lead over Rahm, who entered Sunday at even par for the event.

Will Zalatoris, after his first nine holes, was three strokes behind the leading Hideki Matsuyama.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

See you subsequent spring, Nos. 1, 2, 3, Four and 5.

The Masters Event discipline, which Hideki Matsuyama nonetheless tops at this hour at 12 beneath par for the week, has been zipping via the course as Augusta Nationwide Golf Membership approaches the crowning of a champion.

Matsuyama opened the day at 11 beneath, however bogeyed the primary gap earlier than recovering nicely on the second, the place he made birdie. Now, via his first 9 holes, Will Zalatoris has narrowed Matsuyama’s result in three strokes.

The participant having the most important day, although, falls slightly below them on the leaderboard. Via 17 holes, Jon Rahm is six beneath on the day, which has vaulted him from a tie for 21st at dawn to a tie for third. Rahm’s greatest second got here on the second gap, the place he made eagle simply after he carded a birdie on No. 1.

The excellent news for Matsuyama, in addition to main the Masters on Sunday, is that he has made it previous the course’s most troublesome gap. He made par on No. 5. Xander Schauffele, paired with Matsuyama for the spherical, had a catastrophe: double-bogey. Via eight holes, he had shot one over for the day and trailed his companion by six strokes.

Corey Conners didn’t lengthen his success at No. 6, the place he had a hole in one on Saturday. Taking part in the par-Three within the remaining spherical, his tee shot sailed over the inexperienced and a putt simply barely stayed out of the cup. He’s at 5 beneath par and tied for fifth.

Francesco Molinari hitting from the fairway on the fifth hole during the final round of the Masters.
Credit score…Gregory Bull/Related Press

The fifth gap at Augusta Nationwide was not all the time so depressing. Then, forward of the 2019 event, the membership added 40 yards and made it the hardest on the course.

It’s nonetheless not a cheerful place.

Though gamers have stated they had been adjusting to the brand new rigors, the sphere scored a cumulative 103 over par on the par-Four gap throughout the primary three rounds — the handiwork of 84 bogeys, 9 double-bogeys and simply 5 birdies. (The simplest gap, in case you’re questioning, has been No. 8, with Nos. 6 and 9 roughly within the center.)

Escaping the 2 bunkers earlier than the pin requires 315 of the outlet’s 495 yards, after which there’s one other simply past the inexperienced, which slopes from the again to the entrance.

Gary Participant, a three-time Masters winner, stated in an interview final 12 months that with such a gap design in his day, he would have had to make use of a driver and possibly a 5-wood. Then once more, he stated, in the present day’s gamers can afford to method the sport otherwise.

“The ball goes 50 yards additional, and the metallic heads hit it a lot additional, and the fairways run extra,” he stated. “We by no means had the conditioned fairways, we by no means had the metallic heads, we by no means had a ball that goes 50 yards additional and curves much less.”

All of that however, the outlet has, to place it politely, pushed the sphere bonkers this 12 months. Even Hideki Matsuyama, who entered Sunday’s remaining spherical at 11 beneath par, bogeyed the outlet.

One factor that struck me these previous few days about Will Zalatoris, who’s in second place at eight beneath par, was his absolute confidence regardless of this being his first Masters. However his pleasure was fairly one thing, too: “You’ll see me each single time after I’m on 12, form of wanting again once we cross the bridge and simply form of wanting again on Amen Nook. Get pleasure from it. I’ve been wanting to do that my complete profession, and I put myself in a fairly great spot.” His bogey on No. Three in the present day is a sure disappointment, however he has narrowed Hideki Matsuyama’s result in three strokes.

Bubba Watson’s distinctive tee shot on No. 16 will arrange nicely for birdie. Tied for 23rd when he arrived on the gap, the two-time Masters winner is poised to recuperate nicely from his exhibiting in 2020, when he got here in 57th. However chatting with reporters final week, he talked about, of all issues, his Augusta Nationwide breakfast order: “two scrambled eggs, two items of bacon, two biscuits and hash browns.” An impish fan who was listening from afar known as out that Watson may win his third inexperienced jacket if he upped one thing on his order to — you guessed it — three.

Will Zalatoris, a Masters rookie, started off with a birdie on the first hole to pull within three strokes of Hideki Matsuyama.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

The 5 gamers in first or second place coming into Sunday’s fourth spherical of the Masters have remarkably related final-round rating averages of their earlier appearances on the event. For Hideki Matsuyama, the third-round chief enjoying in his 10th Masters, his fourth-round common rating has been 71.63. The subsequent highest is Justin Rose, who’s 4 strokes behind Matsuyama. Rose’s final-round common in 15 earlier Masters is 71.43.

Marc Leishman, tied with Rose, has the third highest common remaining day rating (71.2). Leishman is enjoying in his ninth Masters event. Xander Schauffele has teed it up within the fourth spherical of the Masters three earlier instances and averaged a one-under-par 71.

Will Zalatoris, additionally tied for second place, is a Masters rookie and has by no means performed on the fourth day of the event. Zalatoris can also be attempting to turn into the primary Masters rookie since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 to win the event.

Zalatoris minimize Matsuyama’s result in one with birdies on the primary two holes, however bogeyed No. 3, and after the bogey on No. 1 Matsuyama obtained again to a three-stroke lead with a birdie on No. 2. Xander Schauffele pulled right into a tie with Zalatoris at eight beneath.

Matsuyama, who began the day with a four-stroke lead at 11 beneath par, struggled on his opening drive, sending his ball off to the appropriate and into the bushes. He bogeyed the primary gap, and his lead has been minimize to 1 with Will Zalatoris gaining.

Phil Mickelson on the third green during the final round.
Credit score…Brian Snyder/Reuters

One of many perks of successful the Masters, in addition to the green jacket and an on the spot etching into historical past, is a lifetime invitation to play the event.

Seven previous winners survived the minimize this 12 months: Phil Mickelson, José María Olazábal, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson. However much more didn’t, together with Dustin Johnson, who gained final 12 months with a tournament-record 20 beneath par however this time round three-putted six holes.

So why do they arrive again? In Johnson’s case, after all, it’s as a result of he’s nonetheless within the prime of his profession. However contemplate, say, Fred Couples, who gained the 1992 event and has positioned no greater than third in a serious since 2005.

“It’s not a contest for me,” {Couples} stated final week, earlier than he missed the Masters minimize for the third consecutive event. “The competitors is for myself to play the course the perfect I can, and when that turns into havoc, then I’ll have most likely performed my final Masters.”

Moreover, enjoying or not, most previous winners come back to Augusta each year for the closed-door dinner for the champions and the membership chairman. The 2021 menu, which Johnson chosen and paid for, included pigs-in-a-blanket, filet mignon and peach cobbler.

However for gamers who’re younger sufficient, the hope of one other title lurks. Mickelson, who had a three-under 69 on Saturday to maneuver to even for the event, thought he may nonetheless contend on Sunday — perhaps.

“You need that chance to do what Nicklaus did in ’86 and shoot 65 and have an opportunity,” he stated after his third spherical. “I don’t know if that will likely be ok, however I’m having numerous enjoyable.”

After I performed Augusta Nationwide the day after Tiger Woods’s 2019 victory, I made a par on the treacherous, pivotal par-3 12th gap. At about 6 p.m. tonight, I may promote that par to one of many leaders for a princely sum.

Billy Horschel during the second round.
Credit score…David J. Phillip/Related Press

Billy Horschel simply made it via No. 13 with out slipping down a slope.

This counts as one thing of an achievement — even when, for the second consecutive day, he wanted to take away his socks and footwear to make it via the outlet.

Let’s again up. Horschel’s second shot on Saturday landed in Rae’s Creek, one of many risks of the par-5 gap. So Horschel’s socks and footwear got here off as he ready to strive a shot from the water. However after he surveyed the inexperienced earlier than his try, he misplaced his footing and slid down the hill, prompting a session with Phil Mickelson, the three-time Masters winner who was his companion for the day, and later blamed the steepness of the financial institution and the wetness of the rye.

“I stated, ‘How unhealthy is that grass stain going to be?’” Horschel, who was sporting white pants, recounted after the spherical. “And he stated, ‘There is probably not one there,’ and he appeared and stated, ‘Yeah, there’s one there. Sorry, buddy.’” (Requested whether or not he had confronted a extra embarrassing second, he replied: “I’ve ripped my pants just a few instances — and early within the rounds.”)

The shot went a lot better.

“It was most likely a pair inches beneath the water,” Horschel stated, including, “I knew there was an entire bunch of inexperienced behind me, so so long as I hit it laborious sufficient, it will come out.”

It did, lifting up onto the inexperienced and previous the pin to arrange a two-putt, and Horschel finally made par.

“It was an unimaginable golf shot,” Mickelson stated later. “That’s not straightforward. Typically that factor comes out form of blah. I’m curious how he hit that.”

Then got here Sunday, when Horschel’s tee shot landed within the water.

A lot as Horschel followers may hope, we don’t make this up.

Off got here the footwear.

His restoration shot managed to go away the water however headed straight right into a rock-strewn slope. His third shot went just a few inches. Ultimately reducing his losses, he took a drop, solely to see what was technically his fifth stroke wind up within the gallery. Horschel’s sixth put him onto the inexperienced, the place he putted nicely.

Nevertheless it was very a lot a depressing exhibiting on the outlet: eight strokes — good for a triple-bogey that moved him to 6 over par for the event. A minimum of, although, he didn’t rip his pants.

The early hours of the final round had a more subdued atmosphere.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

The ambiance as the primary eight or 10 pairings of golfers tee off within the remaining spherical of the Masters is all the time a bit peculiar. The opponents are, in concept, vying for the event title, however in actuality they’re too far behind to have a shot and most are attempting play shortly (and nicely) to allow them to be carried out in time to observe the true present when the event leaders tee off at about 2:40 p.m. Jap time.

Normally, there are about 40,000 followers on the Augusta Nationwide Golf Membership grounds to observe the primary teams play and the group is happy for the ultimate spherical to begin, which supplies even mundane pictures by gamers in 49th place some import.

However at this 12 months’s Masters, there are most likely fewer than 10,000 followers allowed on the property, which makes visitors to the golf course a breeze. That has meant that the early crowds for the ultimate spherical have been skinny.

The early teams of gamers are making their manner round Augusta Nationwide with a following that extra carefully resembles the final day of a neighborhood membership championship than essentially the most celebrated golf event on the earth. At midday in the present day, as Bryson DeChambeau walked to the fifth inexperienced, a pair spectators had been having a dialog with him from 40 yards away — and each events had no hassle listening to one another.

Solely on the 2021 Masters.

Will Zalatoris will start this afternoon 7 under par, tied for second in the tournament.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

Two gamers making their debuts on the Masters are within the high 10. Get excited — however not too excited.

Will Zalatoris, who’s seven beneath par for the event, completed Saturday’s round in a tie for second. He tees off at 2:20 p.m. Jap time. And Robert MacIntyre, at two beneath and teeing off at 2 p.m., was amongst these standing in 10th place on Sunday morning. If both of them can prevail, a mighty ask provided that Hideki Matsuyama is at 11 beneath, the Masters may have a first-time participant as its champion, ending a drought that has lasted since Fuzzy Zoeller managed the feat in 1979.

“I’m right here as a result of I obtained right here on advantage, and I’m right here to win a golf event,” MacIntyre, a 24-year-old participant from Scotland who certified for the Masters due to his world rating. “If I wasn’t attempting to win this golf event, I’d be sitting at house with my ft up watching it. I’ve ready for the final two years or the final 12 months, my aim was high 50 with a purpose to get on this golf event as a result of I like watching it a lot. I’m right here now, and I’m attempting to win it.”

Newcomers have made severe runs towards the inexperienced jacket prior to now. Simply in November, for example, Sungjae Im positioned second within the event, and C.T. Pan completed in a tie for seventh. Abraham Ancer, who entered the ultimate spherical tied with Im for the runner-up slot, was one of many 13th place finishers.

However Zoeller is the one fashionable exception to the seeming rule that newcomers should fade on a course that rewards expertise. Simply two different males have gained the Masters of their debuts: Horton Smith in 1934, when Augusta Nationwide first held the event, and Gene Sarazen adopted him in 1935.

Zalatoris acknowledged that the course could possibly be intimidating. However, he stated, “The truth that I needed to be right here my complete life truly nearly frees me up.”

A 78-minute rain delay on Saturday slowed the greens down.
Credit score…Charlie Riedel/Related Press

Let’s run via the assessments of the greens — in addition to the customary analysis of “quick and agency” — that we’ve heard over the past week round Augusta Nationwide.

“Fiery,” Adam Scott declared. “Very completely different from those in November,” stated C.T. Pan. “Pure,” Kevin Kisner stated.

“If it stays dry, it’ll be as troublesome because the course has performed in a protracted, very long time, and that’s what I feel we have to have,” Fred {Couples} stated early within the week.

{Couples}, the 1992 champion, largely obtained his want. However now it has rained — a fast system that pressured a delay in the course of the third spherical on Saturday. (Hideki Matsuyama spent the time, he stated, in his automotive enjoying video games on his cellphone. He completed the day at 11 beneath par on the week, so perhaps there’s a lesson there.)

Nearly nobody is anticipating the greens to be anyplace close to as comfortable as they had been in November, when Dustin Johnson gained the event with a file 20 beneath. The greens, although, may be just a bit much less glass-like, maybe inviting fewer debacles like Bernd Wiesberger’s eagle putt on No. 15 that rolled all the best way into the water.

Gamers have spent the event each speaking concerning the perils of the greens and celebrating them.

“It’s arrange good to determine form of the perfect participant, and the blokes which might be putting it nicely are up on the leaderboard, the blokes which might be placing it nicely,” Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters winner, stated on Saturday. “And I feel it’s very reasonable as a result of we’re making divots, the balls are stopping. It’s not just like the ’90s the place we weren’t, however you must have high quality pictures. You’ve obtained to hit angles into the pins. You’ve obtained to be sensible.”

Mickelson, who had recommended simply days earlier that Augusta Nationwide’s greens had been too forgiving in recent times, declared the course “completely carried out.”

“It punishes you — prefer it did me the primary couple of days — while you make errors or don’t put it in the appropriate spot or hit poor chips,” he stated. “I like seeing it like this as a result of you may rating low, however you additionally have to respect it.”

Hideki Matsuyama made the most of the rain delay on Saturday.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

When the 2020 Masters, delayed by coronavirus pandemic, was performed final November, the course was not in its typical springtime form, as Bill Pennington and Alan Blinder reported. The golfers ran amok, and Dustin Johnson gained with a rating of 20 beneath par, the most important margin of victory within the historical past of the event, with 43 gamers ending beneath par.

What a distinction a season makes. Right here’s what occurred within the first three rounds this week:

On Thursday, the course had its manner with the sphere, with solely 11 golfers ending beneath par. Justin Rose was an outlier, taking pictures a seven-under-par 65, and led after the first round. Solely Rose, Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama shot under 70.

On Friday, the fan favourite Jordan Spieth, who has been waging a gentle comeback and gained his first event since 2017 the earlier week on the Texas Valero Open, turned in an excellent round, a four-under-par 68. He was simply two strokes behind Rose, the second-round chief. In a little bit of a shock, Johnson, the defending champion, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy all failed to make the cut.

A 78-minute rain delay arrange a exceptional run up the leaderboard by Matsuyama. The 29-year-old Japanese star shot 65 to enter Sunday’s final round 11 under par. 4 golfers had been tied for second: Rose, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and the Masters rookie Will Zalatoris.

Hideki Matsuyama lining up a putt on Saturday. He led after three rounds.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

Protection of the Masters Event is break up throughout quite a lot of tv networks, streaming platforms and web sites, making it complicated to know learn how to watch. The excellent news is that there are a variety of viewing choices, a few of them free, for golf followers.

Right here is how one can catch Sunday’s remaining spherical.

The normal tv protection of the event’s remaining spherical, which is able to culminate with any individual donning a inexperienced jacket, will be seen on CBS from 2 to 7 p.m. Jap time. That protection will likely be simulcast within the CBS Sports activities app and on the Paramount+ streaming service.

Teams start teeing off within the morning, nonetheless, and you can begin watching the Masters along with your espresso. On the Masters livestream there are 4 completely different “channels” to observe:

These choices all start and finish at completely different instances, relying on when the primary golfers attain the completely different holes, however the featured teams channel kicks issues off at 10:25 a.m. Jap. The featured teams are Paul Casey and Billy Horschel (10:30 a.m.), Bryson DeChambeau and Harris English (11 a.m.), Justin Spieth and Brian Harman (2:10 p.m.) and Justin Rose and Marc Leishman (2:30 p.m.).

You’ll be able to watch the Masters livestream in quite a lot of completely different locations. ESPN+, Paramount+, the CBS Sports activities app, and all carry it.

If you’re extra concerned with evaluation from speaking heads and photographs of golfers working towards earlier than their tee instances, the Golf Channel is reside from the Masters each earlier than and after the primary protection on CBS. In case you miss the ultimate spherical, encore protection begins nearly instantly, at Eight p.m. Jap on the CBS Sports activities Community.

A view of the 16th green at August National Golf Club on Thursday.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

The Masters Event is likely one of the South’s grandest spring traditions. Doug Mills, a New York Occasions employees photographer, has been capturing the ambiance all week:

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