Recap of the day
Early Starters: Patrick Cantlay showed what could be achieved with the Moving Day pin positions, thrashing an error-free 8-under-par 64 before the leaders had even reached the first tee to total 6-under 210, Webb Simpson added another to set a new clubhouse target of 9-under 207 and then Tony Finau made it a hat-trick of 64 to post 11-under 205 as the leaders were still halfway through Amen Corner. Also note this was a tournament record: the first year ever in which multiple 64s have been signed for – and incredibly they all came within a couple of hours of each other.
Leaders: Finau’s target proved tough to equal never mind better. Ian Poulter joined Webb Simpson in a tie for fifth on 9-under with a birdie at the last for a 68. Brooks Koepka claimed solo fourth on 10-under with a 69 and Tiger Woods joined Finau with a 67 that earned him a spot in the last group out on Sunday. He’ll play alongside the leader Francesco Molinari whose sensational up-and-down from sand at the 18th means he has dropped only one shot all week. Woods and the Italian, of course, played the final round of the Open together last year, Molinari claiming the group and tournament bragging rights.
Revised outright betting: Molinari 7/4, Woods 10/3, Koepka 6/1, Finau 13/2, Johnson 25/1, Poulter 25/1, Simpson 28/1
Sunday weather forecast
Afternoon thunderstorms are not just likely but expected. There is a 90% chance of rain and the wind will be around 17mph, with gusts above 20mph. Hang on to your hats as there is a two-tee final round with three-balls and the final group will leave at 9.40 a.m. local time (it would be wise to also keep an eye on more up-to-date predictions).
Leaders after 54 holes
Francesco Molinari (66, 203) – Bogey-free since the 11th in round one (his only mistake of the week). He broke free of the field with four birdies in four holes on the back nine (from the 12th) and has hit 79% of the fairways and 72% of the greens in regulation.
Tony Finau (64, 205) – A sparkling front nine of 30 and whilst he slowed down on the way home (just the two birdies), he will be happy. Missed just two fairways and caught 15-of-18 greens in regulation.
Tiger Woods (67, 205) – For a second round running he landed 16-of-18 greens in regulation and took advantage, ticking three in a row on the front nine (from the sixth) and three in four on the back nine (from the 13th). Note that he has made bogey three times at the extended fifth this week.
Brooks Koepka (69, 206) – A rollercoaster round which witnessed a bogey-birdie-birdie start, a bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie run before the turn, and a birdie-bogey-eagle exchange on the way home.
Fate of the Favourites
Rory McIlroy (71, 215) – An ugly collection of bogeys which marred all the good work. Four birdies and an eagle is a good effort, but not if you drop five shots. Found 11 greens (his best of the week) and just five fairways (a low for the week).
Dustin Johnson (70, 208) – A frustrating day in which he never caught the tailwind others sailed free on. Landed 9-of-14 fairways (missing at 18 cost him bogey) and 13 greens in regulation.
Justin Rose – missed the cut
Justin Thomas (69, 210) – Another who didn’t make the most of the favorable scoring conditions, although he did go bogey-free. Caught 11-of-14 fairways and 16-of-18 greens in regulation.
Tiger Woods – see above
Rory McIlroy (71) – “Just too many mistakes. I’ve made enough birdies and eagles. Just not efficient enough with the scoring clubs.
Webb Simpson (64) – “I thought to myself ‘I’m swinging well, I just need to think good’ and that turned the day around. No idea about tomorrow. I just know that I can control what I can control.”
Tommy Fleetwood (70) – “Steady, but not keeping pace. I’ve not hit solid shots consistently. Not been there really.”
Rickie Fowler (68) – “Not too happy after 18, but all in all, a good day. I haven’t lost ground, but it would have been nice to get closer. Tomorrow we’ll take some tighter lines and let it roll from there.”
Tony Finau (64) – “I felt calm and comfortable. I think my score showed that. I needed to keep making birdies, keep the foot on the gas pedal. I’m well in-contention and happy about that.”
Tiger Woods (67) – “This is a chance to win a major championship. It’s about going out there and executing. The wind will make it more difficult. I’ve got to do my part and hit the ball correctly. Normally, you’d have a lie in with a late tee off on Sunday, but not tomorrow!”
Ian Poulter (68) – “It was a nice finish. I played really good today. One blemish on 11. I was very chilled with Tiger, it was fun, he was good fun to play with.”
Road to Victory at Augusta National
2018 Patrick Reed – R1: 4th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2017 Sergio Garcia – R1: 4th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2016 Danny Willett – R1: 9th, R2: 8th, R3: 5th
2015 Jordan Spieth – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2014 Bubba Watson – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
Notes: In the 21st century every winner was T5 or better, and 16-of-19 were T3 or better. In terms of shots, Charl Schwartzel has made the biggest comeback (four shots) with Bubba Watson and Danny Willett overcoming a three-shot deficit. The last man to win from outside the top ten? Art Wall Jr. way back in 1959. Just bear in mind the tee time changes and weather forecast – they could prompt a trend-buster.
Fate of the 54-hole Leaders at Augusta National – where did they finish?
2018 Patrick Reed – 1st
2016 Jordan Spieth – 2nd
2015 Jordan Spieth – 1st
Notes: 25 golfers have owned or shared the lead at this stage of the Masters in the 21st century and 12 of them converted the wind. 7-of-13 solo leaders have stayed ahead.
Focus on – The Leaders in-contention
Francesco Molinari – He is 5-for-8 converting a 54-hole lead and has cleaned up in his last three instances. Had one sub-70 lap in 24 attempts at Augusta in the past; done it twice in three circuits this week. Has a R4 average of 72.80 here.
Tony Finau – He is 1-for-1 at being second at 54-holes and grabbing the win (2016 Puerto Rico Open) and will have learned much from his experience at last year’s U.S. Open when a R3 66 leapt him from T45 to T1 before claiming T5. Shot 66 in R4 during his debut here 12 months ago.
Tiger Woods – He is 13-for-32 at turning second at this stage into a win, but has, of course, never done it in a major (he’s had three shots at it). Averages 70.68 in the final round at Augusta.
Brooks Koepka – Like the Italian, he’s had difficulty breaking 70 here in the past (1-for-12), but done it twice this week. Averages 71.00 in R4 on the course.
Focus on – the bogey count
All week we have kept an eye on this tally because the bogey or worse count of the last 11 champions reads: +11, +7, +8, +10, +9, +6, +9, +7, +6, +8, +7. That’s an average of +8 and seven of those 11 winners recorded the lowest count of the week.
So, how are the leaders faring? Who is making the fewest errors?
-13 Francesco Molinari (bogey count +1)
-11 Tony Finau (bogey count +3)
-11 Tiger Woods (bogey count +5)
-10 Brooks Koepka (bogey count +8)
-9 Webb Simpson (bogey count +6)
-9 Ian Poulter (bogey count +4)
Molinari, then, is in sensational shape, but Finau, Poulter and even Woods are faring well.
Focus on – Moving Day moves
Here’s a look at the low scorers in round three and how they follow it up in round four (over the last five years).
Rickie Fowler 65-67
Jon Rahm 65-69
Rory McIlroy 65-74
Tommy Fleetwood 66-74
Patrick Reed 67-71
Matthew Fitzpatrick 67-75
Justin Rose 67-69
Charl Schwartzel 68-68
Jordan Spieth 68-75
Lee Westwood 68-74
Smyllie Kaufman 69-81
Bernhard Langer 70-79
Lee Westwood 71-69
Louis Oosthuizen 71-71
Phil Mickelson 67-69
Justin Rose 67-70
Ian Poulter 67-67
Rory McIlroy 68-66
Zach Johnson 68-68
Hunter Mahan 68-67
Tiger Woods 68-73
Miguel Angel Jimenez 66-79
Rickie Fowler 67-73
Matt Kuchar 68-74
Justin Rose 69-74
Gary Woodland 69-76
Conclusions? Plenty stay in the same range, but far more fail to maintain the momentum. Moreover, in the last 20 years, only one winner has made up more than four places on the leaderboard in round three (Charl Schwartzel T12 to T2 in 2011). Mostly this counts against Finau (who made up 14 spots) and Simpson (24 spots). And only two winners went backward on Moving Day (Bubba Watson in 2012 and Mike Weir in 2003, both one place) – that’s not good news for Koepka (who dropped three).