Masters Leaderboard: Top 5 Weekend Contenders Poised to Win Green Jacket
The Masters leaderboard is stacking up to make for another memorable weekend at Augusta National.
While Jason Day (six-under) carries a one-shot lead into Round 3 of the Masters, 25 golfers are within five shots of the lead heading into the weekend. In layman's terms, get ready for one hell of a weekend.
Among players within striking distance of Day are Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Brandt Snedeker, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy, just to name a few.
Each of these men and many more will fight valiantly to end up in Butler Cabin with a jacket Sunday evening, but only one man can ultimately claim the title of 2013 Masters champion.
Let's take a look at the top five weekend contenders to win the 2013 Masters.
On April 2, I labeled Jason Day as one of the sleepers in the 2013 Masters Tournament.
Over two rounds at Augusta National, the young Australian is making good on my premonition. Entering weekend play, Day carries a one-shot lead over Fred Couples and Marc Leishman.
While Day has looked like the same player that finished in second place at the 2011 Masters, he can't begin to look back at the talent chasing him from behind. Among 25 players within five shots of the lead are Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Jason Dufner, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose.
He's recorded three top-10 finishes in 2013 and made cuts in each of his seven tournament appearances heading into the Masters. Further, he's made cuts in his last 11 events on the PGA Tour.
If Day can have a solid Saturday at the Masters, he should be set up well for the final round. It's been the third round this year where he's had trouble, though, ranking No. 149 in third-round scoring average (72).
However, in final-round play the Australian has performed admirably in this season. Currently, Day ranks No. 30 on tour in final-round scoring average (69.5).
The Australian golfer came darn close to winning at Augusta National in 2011, so he'll know what to expect mentally down the stretch on Sunday afternoon.
If he can card a par-or-better score in Round 3, Day should be in perfect position on Sunday afternoon.
Adam Scott finds himself three shots off the lead at the end of Round 2, putting him in a tie for No. 7.
Having finished the past two years at Augusta National with top-eight finishes, the world's No. 7-ranked golfer is in the perfect pole position heading into weekend play. He's not sleeping on a Round 2 lead, but then again he's not very far off the pace.
The casual golf fan only tuning in for major championships will best remember Scott for collapsing down the stretch at the 2012 Open Championship. That being noted, Scott possesses a world of experience at the Masters, having now played in 12 straight at Augusta National.
Over his Masters career, he's shot under par in six of his nine final-round appearances.
However. Saturdays at Augusta have been a little tougher for the young Aussie. The nine times he's been amongst the field for Round 3, Scott has only managed to shoot under par twice.
The eight-time PGA Tour winner has two top-10 finishes in four events on tour this season.
Nevertheless, Scott is still chasing his first major championship.
While some less-experienced players will falter under pressure this weekend, don't expect it from Scott.
With a decent Round 3 at Augusta National, the youngster could put himself in the driver's seat.
Tiger Woods is only three shots behind leader Jason Day at the end of Round 2.
The four-time Masters champion is going to be in the thick of things on Sunday at Augusta National.
If it weren't for a very surprising two-over back nine on Friday, Tiger would most likely be atop the leaderboard ahead of the weekend at the Masters.
By sheer bad luck on hole No. 15 Friday, Woods recorded a bogey after his ball spun off the green and down into the water hazard. Nevertheless, he stuck his fifth shot close to the pin and saved bogey.
To wrap up his round, Tiger stumbled and made another bogey on No. 18 to end his day. Those two bogeys alone would have vaulted the world's No. 1 golfer immediately behind Day at minus-five.
Only three off the pace when he went to bed Friday night, Tiger knows he's still the guy to beat this weekend at the Masters. He's perfectly fine being in his current position. Hell, he may even prefer it.
Despite his poor performance at the Masters last year (tied for 40th), since 1997, Tiger has 10 top-five finishes. Furthermore, the world No. 1 golfer finished outside of the top 15 at Augusta National only three times.
In 2013, he's already won three times on the PGA Tour, including the Farmers Insurance Open, Cadillac Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The only thing that can stop Tiger this weekend is Tiger. As long as he stays focused and doesn't let a bad shot or two linger in his mind, there's no reason to believe he won't get another green jacket on Sunday evening,
In his past five Masters appearances, Lee Westwood has four top-11 finishes and two top-three finishes.
Currently tied with countryman Justin Rose at three-under, three shots off the Round 2 lead, Westwood is another player in solid position to claim his first major championship.
After carding a double-bogey on the first hole of the tournament in Round 1, the 39-year-old has recovered quite nicely over the past 35 holes.
In 10 prior Round 3 outings at the Masters, Westwood has never shot worse than two-over on Saturday.
That being said, he's had worse fortune on a few Sundays at Augusta National. In Round 4 of the Masters, the Englishman has only once shot under 70, not to mention having posted rounds of 76, 77, 78 and 79 over the course of Sundays at the Masters.
The key for Westwood will be going low in Round 3. If that happens, he should have a bit of a cushion heading into Sunday at the Masters when anything can happen.
Having recently made a move across the pond to Florida with his family, he's made seven cuts in seven PGA Tour events in 2013. Moreover, he's notched four top-25 finishes and two top-10 finishes this year.
On Saturday, Westwood will be paired with fellow countryman David Lynn. Between a familiar playing partner, a solid Round 3 history at Augusta and the sheer fact that he's playing well in 2013, look for his name near the top of the leaderboard heading into play on Sunday.
He's due a major victory, and it might just finally happen this year at the Masters.
Before the 2013 Masters even began, I predicted Justin Rose would earn his first major this week.
In a tie for seventh place at three-under par heading into Round 3, the young Englishman has to like his position at the moment.
Without three bogeys on the back nine Friday afternoon, Rose would sit close to the lead alongside Jason Day at six-under.
In his Masters career, Rose is 7-for-7 in terms of cuts made at Augusta National. In particular, his most recent Masters appearances include finishes of No. 8 in 2012 and No. 11 in 2011. To wrap up the 2012 majors season, he notched a No. 3 finish at the PGA Championship.
The world's No. 3-ranked golfer is now competing in his 35th major championship this week, although he's still searching for that elusive first major.
In an April 7 article, I noted the following key statistics indicative of a probable Masters run for Rose:
Stats That Matter Heading into Augusta National:
Scoring Average: No. 1 (68.68)
Back 9 Scoring Average: No. 1 (34.42)
Sand-Save Percentage: No. 1 (70.59)
Scrambling: No. 3 (71.62-precent)
Proximity to Hole from Sand: No. 4 (6'5'')
Par-5 Birdie or Better Leaders: No. 6 (57.50-percent)
In his stroke-play performances on the PGA Tour this year, Rose boasts finishes of No. 2 (Arnold Palmer Invitational), No. 8 (Cadillac Championship) and No. 4 (Honda Classic). It shouldn't be any real surprise that the Englishman is playing well thus far in the year's first major.
Don't be surprised if Rose is atop the leaderboard as play wraps up Sunday at Augusta.
He was my pick to win before the tournament began, and he still is my winner.