With one of the longest and most unpredictable players on tour tied with a 20-year-old atop the Masters leaderboard after 54 holes, we are set up for a dynamic closing day at Augusta National.
Bubba Watson, the 2012 green jacket winner, entered the third round with a three-stroke lead. At one point on Saturday, he led by five strokes. After struggling with distance control, he fired a 74. Now, Watson finds himself tied with youngster Jordan Spieth at five under.
Meanwhile, Spieth played with the steady hand of a grizzled veteran, and now he is in a position to make history.
Including the two at the top, there are 13 golfers under par for the tournament and looking to make a major move on Sunday. Take a look at the leaderboard:
Obviously, the final group deserves the bulk of the attention, but with so many player in striking distance, there is a good chance the eventual champ will not be one of the last two to tee off.
There are some interesting pairings at the tail end of Sunday's tees times. Have a look:
|Time (ET)||Player 1||Player 2|
|10:10 a.m.||Larry Mize||—|
|10:20 a.m.||Stephen Gallacher||Joost Luiten|
|10:30 a.m.||Mike Weir||Brandt Snedeker|
|10:40 a.m.||K.J. Choi||Sandy Lyle|
|10:50 a.m.||Francesco Molinari||Nick Watney|
|11:00 a.m.||Brendon de Jonge||Oliver Goss|
|11:10 a.m.||Thongchai Jaidee||Thorbjorn Olesen|
|11:20 a.m.||Lucas Glover||Billy Horschel|
|11:30 a.m.||Darren Clarke||Stewart Cink|
|11:50 a.m.||Vijay Singh||Jose Maria Olazabal|
|12:00 p.m.||Steven Bowditch||Hunter Mahan|
|12:10 p.m.||Martin Kaymer||Bill Haas|
|12:20 p.m.||Louis Oosthuizen||Jamie Donaldson|
|12:30 p.m.||Bernhard Langer||Henrik Stenson|
|12:40 p.m.||Jimmy Walker||Rory McIlroy|
|12:50 p.m.||Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano||Russell Henley|
|1:00 p.m.||Chris Kirk||Steve Stricker|
|1:10 p.m.||Adam Scott||Jason Day|
|1:30 p.m.||Ian Poulter||Kevin Streelman|
|1:40 p.m.||John Senden||Gary Woodland|
|1:50 p.m.||Kevin Stadler||Fred Couples|
|2:00 p.m.||Thomas Bjorn||Justin Rose|
|2:10 p.m.||Lee Westwood||Jim Furyk|
|2:20 p.m.||Miguel Angel Jimenez||Rickie Fowler|
|2:30 p.m.||Matt Kuchar||Jonas Blixt|
|2:40 p.m.||Jordan Spieth||Bubba Watson|
Sunday's Big Questions
Will Bubba Bounce Back?
As Saturday progressed, Watson's touch began to fade. The left-hander began to lose his distance control on seemingly every club. This was most obvious with the flat iron.
Watson had been displaying some of the best and most consistent putting of his career. Leading up to the sixth hole on Saturday, he had gone 296 consecutive PGA holes without a three putt. He needed three attempts on that hole and then again on the 13th.
Which golfer will finish the highest?
Watson's shaky putting stroke also cost him a stroke on the par-three 16th as he missed a short par putt. At that point, it was almost possible to hear the rush of pencil over paper as people wrote Watson off.
Watson remained shaky, and he looked doomed on 18 when he sent a ball hurtling towards the trees. After a friendly bounce, however, the ball landed in the fairway. Watson still managed to leave himself serious work for par on the hole, but he came through.
Watson sank his bending par putt to close out his round and retain a share of the lead.
That may not sound like much, but it was a strong way to close out the round.
Watson was on the edge of the Masters cliff and he was able to keep himself from falling. Now he begins the final round in great shape, but as a bit of an afterthought after his sluggish Saturday.
All of this combines to give Watson something to draw confidence from and to do so without the enormous pressure of entering the final round a with a lead. This will keep him loose and free to get in rhythm and stay in contention.
Will Westwood Have His Major Breakthrough?
Lee Westwood has accomplished everything there is to in golf except winning a major. He's certainly been close. PGA Tour Media helps highlight:
The most top-3 finishes in a major championship without a victory since 1934 is eight by Lee Westwood #pgatour— PGA TOUR Media (@PGATOURmedia) April 12, 2014
Westwood fired a 70 on Saturday to move to two under and a tie for seventh. He is in contention to grab that elusive first major, and he has strong momentum rolling toward that goal.
After posting a 73 in Round 1, Westwood has improved his score with each round.
Westwood can use his improving performances to help give him confidence on Sunday, but he still has to stare down the demons of his many major failures.
I would love to see Westwood conquer those demons, but I fully expect him to come up short once again.
Can Spieth Handle the Pressure?
There is absolutely no way that Spieth should be able to handle this pressure. He doesn't have a major under his belt, which is understandable since he's only 20.
This is Spieth's first attempt at winning the Masters, and Augusta is not typically kind to first-timers. The undulating, firm greens are easier to handle with a little experience. The following tweet from the PGA Tour helps highlight the difficulty first-timers have at Augusta:
Jordan Spieth is the fifth #Masters rookie to hold the 54-hole lead, the first since 1995. Only one went on to win.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 13, 2014
In fact, should Spieth go onto win, he would be the youngest Masters champ in history.
If there is a golfer who can overcome the enormity of this task, it's Spieth.
The BBC's Iain Carter helps explain:
It's less than a year since Jordan Spieth won his first PGA Tour event, which is a big enough event as a 19-year-old, but he did it in a three-man play-off at the fifth extra hole. That takes some nerve. If he wins, it will be the most significant moment for golf since Tiger Woods won here by 12 shots in 1997.
What isn't mentioned here is that Spieth won his first event as a teenager after dropping out of the University of Texas following his first year to pursue his PGA dreams. Playing via sponsor exemptions, he was banking on strong performances in a few events to leapfrog the developmental circuit and make his way directly to the PGA Tour.
Spieth invited the pressure of that moment, and he looks comfortable in the pressure of this moment.
In fact, Spieth welcomes the pressure again. Yahoo! Sports Dan Wetzel passed along this quote from Spieth: "All those putts I hit when I was real young with my friends trying to make it to win the Masters. You know, I would love the opportunity to test it tomorrow."
I won't go as far as to predict a victory for Spieth, but if he does come up short, it won't be due to nerves.