Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson share the lead after three rounds at the 2014 Masters in Augusta, Ga.
Watson's two-over 74 opened the door for Spieth, and the 20-year-old has seized the opportunity. Spieth wasn't spectacular, but his second straight two-under 70 was enough to move up nine spots into a tie for first place.
Back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th holes from Spieth put the 2013 Rookie of the Year in prime position to win his first major.
Who says Tiger Woods' absence makes the tournament less compelling? America.
According to Ron Sirak of Golf World, it seems viewers aren't tuning in as much as they did in 2013 when Woods was playing:
ESPN’s Friday 1.8 Nielsen rating up from 1.5 a day earlier but far short of 3.0 for second round last year.— Ron Sirak (@ronsirak) April 12, 2014
Oh well, those who are interested are getting quite a show.
Here's a look at the leaderboard heading into Sunday. Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press points out the snugness of the three-round standings:
Here's your Sunday at Augusta: 10 players separated by three shots.— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) April 12, 2014
Jonas Blixt and Matt Kuchar are nipping at Spieth and Watson's heels. Blixt and Kuchar are just a shot back heading into the final round.
As good as those four have been through three days, the most impressive round of the day belonged to Miguel Angel Jimenez. His six-under 66 put him in a tie for fifth place.
Were it not for a dreadful four-over 76 on Friday, Jimenez would really be sitting pretty. The 50-year-old Spaniard's path is just one of the interesting backstories developing as play progresses in Augusta.
Jordan Spieth's Quest for History
Most people expected Spieth to be good pretty soon, but almost no one had him as a contender to win the Masters in his second year on the tour.
Perhaps that's why Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest is so interested in Spieth's story:
Discussion here on which Masters winner would be the best story. I'm going with Jordan Spieth. You?— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) April 12, 2014
As the PGA Tour's official Twitter account states, Spieth is on the cusp of history:
Jason Sobel of The Golf Channel adds even more perspective for Spieth's potential accomplishment:
Jordan Spieth is seven months younger than Tiger Woods was when he won the 1997 Masters. Think about that one for a little while.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) April 12, 2014
How amazing would it be for Spieth to snap Tiger's record in a tournament where Woods' absence is such a point of discussion? Talk about setting up a rivalry for the future.
If Spieth wins, it'll be move over Rory McIlroy. The hot shot from Dallas just became the young gun most publications will try to compare Woods to.
It's premature to go too far into those types of thoughts, but if Spieth can shake Watson and hold off the rest of the field, the young Texan will be a household name on Sunday evening.
Spieth talks to the press in the video below after the third round:
Bubba Back Down to Earth
After shining so bright through two rounds, the 2012 champion came back down to earth in a major way. Luckily for Watson, no one else has played consistently good through three rounds.
On Saturday, the front nine was disastrous for Watson.
He had four bogeys in the first nine holes. An eagle on the second helped to preserve his score for the day, but it was clear he was struggling to find a rhythm.
The back nine was an example of missed opportunities. The 13th hole sticks out as the most glaring misstep. The par five ended with a par, but it took Watson three putts to break even.
As the PGA Tour Twitter account points out, he was not alone in his struggles on the unlucky 13th:
If Watson is going to win his second green jacket, he'll need to be steady and avoid major mistakes. The margin for error figures to be small in the final round.