Tiger Woods is the 2019 Masters champion!
The fairytale is complete! Tiger taps in, punches the air, raises both arms in the sky, and Augusta erupts! Emotion’s coming in a minute, you can tell, but first he’s got a sincere word for Molinari, who will be heartbroken at the moment. What a gesture by Tiger, in the moment he’s waited 11 years for!
Tiger doesn’t rush. He circles the scene a couple of times … then goes in to seize the moment. He rolls the right-to-left breaker towards the cup … and it slips by the side. He tosses his putter into the air, sending it spinning like a cheerleader’s baton, shades of Stevie Nicks in the video for Tusk. Finau finishes off with par, a 72, he’s -11. So too Molinari, whose 74 drops him to -11. And that’s the stage clear for the great man.
Tiger chips into the heart of the green. He uses the ridge running across it to bring his ball back a little towards the hole. He’ll have two putts from 14 feet to become a major winner again, after 11 long barren years!
Tiger launches an 8-iron towards the green. But finally, have some nerves betrayed him? His ball lands well short of the green, and to the right. Ah, the wind suddenly got up. That storm’s not far away. His ball lands in almost total silence, as the worried gallery process what they’re seeing. But he’s still got three shots for the title, his fifth green jacket and his 15th major. That sinks in with the patrons, who go wild as he makes his way up the fairway towards the green. And they go wild, because this is the state of play …
-14: Woods (17)
-12: D Johnson (F), Schauffele (F), Koepka (F)
Tiger is in the zone. He draws a fairway wood from his bag, and fades it around the corner of 18. It’ll be tight to the trees, but he should be OK. And you know, he should be OK whatever, because up on the green, Koepka’s birdie putt slides past the left of the cup. One misjudgement too many by the US Open and PGA champion, who has uncharacteristically left a few shots out there this week. Par. Koepka signs for a final round of 70. Webb Simpson finishes with a 70: he’s -11. And Ian Poulter cards a disappointing 73, ending up at -8, but it’s been a good week for the Englishman.
Tiger tickles his birdie putt towards the hole. It’s never dropping, but par will do. He’s -14. Birdie for Molinari, who receives a sympathetic ovation from the gallery. He’s back up to -11, and wears that look of what might have been. A thousand-yard stare. This isn’t over, though: Koepka, having crashed his tee shot down the middle of 18, sends his second to ten feet, and he’ll have a good look at birdie that’d put a bit of pressure on Tiger coming up behind!
Tiger slipping up, or allowing himself to be overwhelmed by the occasion, looks extremely unlikely. He fizzes his second into 17, pin high, and he’ll have a look at birdie from 15 feet. He performs that trick with his iron, you know the one when he likes his shot: the Tiger twirl! Meanwhile up on 18, Justin Harding rattles in a monster that sees him end the week at -8, in a tie for 12th. That’s a huge putt, because it ensures he’s back here next year!
Schauffele tries to hole his bunker shot, and gives it a good go. He’s got an eight footer coming back. He simply has to make it for par, then he’ll be hoping Tiger slips up or succumbs to emotion. Ditto Koepka, who has left himself a tricky one coming back on 17. Koepka makes his; so does Schauffele. That’s a 68 for Schauffele, who looks pleased with his showing today. He’s Not quite enough, by the looks of it, but after a fine performance at the Open last year, his is a major talent coming through.
Tiger – wearing his trademark final-day red shirt – batters a drive down the middle of 17. The dream gets ever closer, all that yearning possibly coming to an end. Tiger looks the calmest person on the premises. Other-worldly. But then we’ve always known he was something very special, very out of the ordinary. Like that’s breaking news. Up the hole, Koepka – who made his two-putt par on 16, incidentally – clacks his second pin high. He’ll be thinking he really needs to make his birdie putt from 15 feet if he’s to have any chance. But he can’t do it. Meanwhile on 18, Schauffele chunks his bunker shot and only manages to find the sand further up the hole, guardian the front of the green. The stars are aligning for the living legend Tiger Woods.
Schauffele pars 17, then whistles his drive up the last straight into Lyle’s Bunker. Molinari, in the last-chance saloon, sends a 25-foot putt straight at the hole, but this isn’t his day and the ball stops a turn short. He remains at -10. Finau isn’t quite finished yet: having knocked his tee shot to eight feet, he makes his third birdie in four holes and rises to -11. But that’s still three off the lead, because Tiger taps in for his birdie, and this is beginning to happen, people. This is beginning to happen.
-14: Woods (16)
-12: D Johnson (F), Schauffele (17), Koepka (16)
-11: Day (F), Finau (16)
At 16, Tiger very nearly replicates the aces of DeChambeau and Thomas! He lands his ball 15 feet past the flag, then lets the slope do the work. The ball trundles towards the hole and only just evades the right-hand edge of the cup! He’ll have a two-footer for a birdie and a two-shot lead with two to play! Oh my word. Tiger! The patrons are going ballistic as you’d imagine. They’re watching a fairytale unfolding here. A hole-in-one would have been gilding the lily, if we’re being honest. Let’s not get greedy.
Tiger hits the lead with three to play!
A birdie for Finau at 15, but he really needed to make the short eagle putt he’d left himself. He’s -10. Meanwhile Tiger takes two putts for birdie, and suddenly something that seemed unlikely to ever happen begins to feel real. Tiger hits the lead with three holes to play. A fifth green jacket – and that elusive 15th major, 11 years after the 14th – is within sight now! Meanwhile Dustin signs for a 68 after whipping his ball pin high from the bunker, but failing to knock in the 12-footer for birdie that remained.
-13: Woods (15)
-12: D Johnson (F), Schauffele (16), Koepka (16)
Molinari very nearly sends his next shot into the drink too, Sergio style. But his ball snags on the bank, a huge break. But in truth it’s all over for Italy’s greatest golfer. Such a sad collapse for such a likeable star. A chip and a putt, and it’s a double-bogey seven. Two doubles on the back nine, both the result of finding water. He slips to -10, and knows the jig is probably up, because he taps in with his wedge.
This is absurdly exciting! Tiger cracks his second at 15 into the heart of the green. Schauffele finds the fairway at 17. Dustin drives into Sandy’s Sand at 18. Koepka sends his 9-iron at 16 way right of the flag; he’ll have a long slippery two-putts for par. And high drama on 15, as Molinari’s bid takes another huge blow! Having driven into the trees at 15, his lay-up rolls off the fairway on the left. His wedge in from a tricky angle hits an overhanging branch and slam-dunks in the middle of the pond guarding the front of the green. It wasn’t anywhere close to getting over. Disaster for Molinari, who had barely put a foot wrong until reaching Amen Corner on Sunday. The Masters, folks. Ah well. He’ll always have Carnoustie.
Schauffele’s tee shot into 16 is decent … but nothing like the sensational efforts we’ve seen earlier today. He’s left with a tricky two-putt across a glassy green. He sends his first six feet past, but nervelessly makes the one coming back. Meanwhile birdie for Poulter at 15: he’s -9.
-12: D Johnson (17), Schauffele (16), Koepka (15), Molinari (14), Woods (14)
-11: Day (F), Fowler (17)
Another birdie for Dustin Johnson, at 17, and he’s timed his run immaculately! He’s got a share of the lead at -12! Birdie for Fowler there too, he moves to -11. And then Koepka nearly leapfrogs them all as an eagle putt on 15 shaves the hole! He makes do with birdie and a five-way share with Big Dustin, Schauffele, Molinari and Tiger! “2-0 to the Reds!” writes Hubert O’Hearn. “So, have I missed anything?”
Cantlay has lost the thread at the worst possible time. After hitting the front with that eagle at 15, he bogeyed 16 and has now dropped another at 17, always out of position after firing his drive into the trees down the right. He slips back to -10. Up on 18, Jon Rahm nearly drains a long birdie putt, but it’s par and a round of 68. It’s another high finish after last year’s fourth place, but at -10 it’s not to be his year. And a final round of 72 for Phil, who ends the week at -6. The 1968 PGA champ Julius Boros is still the oldest major winner in history.
Dustin Johnson makes birdie at 16 where Rickie Fowler couldn’t. It’s his third in four holes, and he’s making a late tilt at this! He’s -11, just one off. Tiger’s birdie putt at 14, from 15 feet, nearly drops, causing his former coach Butch Harmon to let out one of his trademark HMM!s … a trademark he admittedly shares with Oliver Hardy. (Once you hear it, you’ll never stop hearing it.) Molinari has a chance to go to school on Tiger’s putt, but doesn’t take it. Pair of pars. And a two-putt par for Schauffele off the back of 15, too. It’s a three-way tie at the top at -12: Schauffele, Molinari and Tiger.
Jason Day sets a target! He makes birdie at the last, reward for knocking his approach to six feet, and it’s a final round of 67. He’s -11. It might not be enough, but then again, etc. Meanwhile the defending champion Patrick Reed, out of form coming into this tournament, finishes with a fine 69. He ends up at -2. We’ll see him later in the Butler Cabin, draping a green jacket around someone’s shoulders? But who? Who?
Schauffele overcooks his wedge into 15, his ball just toppling off the back of the green. He’ll most likely get down in two for his par, but birdie is a long shot. On 16, Dustin and Rickie pepper the flag: they’ll both have putts for birdie from eight feet. Bubba bogeys the last to slip to -8, and two green jackets will have to do for now. Tiger sends his second at 14 pin high, and Molinari follows him in.
The rain’s beginning to come down as the predicted storms near Augusta National. Tiger and Molinari both crack their drives down the middle of 14. Up on the green, it’s a two-putt par for Koepka. Schauffele stabs out from the woods at 15 to set up a wedge into the green. And there’s a late charge by Rickie Fowler. He birdies 13, 14 and 15 to join the gang at -10: Day (17), Rahm (17), Dustin (15), Simpson (14) and now last year’s runner-up.
Cantlay does extremely well to guide his long downhill putt at 16 to five feet. It had a huge right-to-left break. But he fails to hit the par putt, and that’s a bogey at exactly the wrong time. Schauffele betrays a few nerves too, wanging a drive into the trees down the left of 15. Back on 13, it’s two-putt birdies for Tiger and Molinari. A bit of luck for both of them on that hole: Tiger getting yet another break after a wild drive, Molinari only just creeping over the water with his second. And now have a look at this!
-12: Schauffele (14), Molinari (13), Woods (13)
-11: Cantlay (16), Koepka (13)
Amid all the hubub, Viktor Hovland of Norway wins the Silver Cup for low amateur! It was a hell of a battle with Alvaro Ortiz. Hovland shot 71 today, while Ortiz – the first Mexican in the field since 1979 – made a 69. But Hovland ends the week at -3, while Ortiz finishes a shot behind at -2. A great performance by all six amateurs this week, and a fair chance we’ll hear of Hovland here again, competing for the big prize!
Cantlay is joined in the lead by Schauffele, who birdies 14! Schauffele could easily have sole ownership of the lead in a few minutes, because Cantlay has pushed his tee shot at 16 to the right-hand edge of the green, leaving a treacherous putt all the way down to the pin. Meanwhile Tiger and Molinari are both on the 13th green in two. And Bubba’s race is surely run after driving into the trees down the left of 17. A bogey, and he slips to -9. Good luck predicting this!
-12: Cantlay (15), Schauffele (14)
-11: Koepka (13), Molinari (12), Woods (12)
-10: Day (17), Rahm (16)
Patrick Cantlay takes the lead with eagle at 15! He finds the centre of the green in two big booms, and curls in the 20-foot left-to-right putt. He’s now 14 under par for his last 33 holes: the form horse in the field all right! He’s -12. And an eagle for Koepka back on 13. This is outrageous! A bounceback eagle after a double bogey? Only at the Masters. The Masters, ladies and gentlemen!
This is breathless stuff. Molinari’s decision to go straight for the flag at 12, instead of making the safe play towards the heart of the green, could have cost him the Masters. He’s still in the thick of it, of course, but there are plenty of players around who will suddenly fancy their chances. Not least Tiger, who slips while driving at 13, but sees his tee shot avoid the branches and land in prime position on the fairway! Molinari does extremely well to regroup and crash his own drive down the fairway. Finau, incidentally, yipped his short bogey putt on 12, and at -8 is surely out of this now.
Hole-in-one for Justin Thomas!
Jon Rahm is this close to making an ace at 16. It’s a stunner! But then his playing partner Justin Thomas goes one better! He replicates the shot of Bryson DeChambeau from a couple of hours ago. The ball lands 15 feet past the hole, spins back and rolls straight into the cup! Rahm will move to -10 while Thomas rises to -9! This really is all to play for now. It’s the last nine at Augusta on Masters Sunday!
Birdie for Schauffele, his fourth in six holes, at 13. He wasn’t too far from eagle. He’s -11, and will have a share of the lead in a minute, if Molinari can’t make his bogey putt. And he can’t. A double bogey, having dropped just two shots in the previous 65 holes! Tiger leaves his long birdie putt eight feet short, but he makes the par saver and suddenly take a look at this leader board!
-11: Schauffele (13), Molinari (12), Woods (12)
-10: Day (16), Watson (16), Cantlay (14), Finau (11)
Molinari wedges gently from the drop zone to 15 feet. He’ll have a chance to salvage this situation and escape with bogey. Finau should escape with bogey, because he’s wedged to four feet. Jason Day, going round with Bubba, has birdied 13 and 15, and nearly made another on 16. And it’s a final-round 68 for Rory McIlroy, who ends the week at -5.
So who’s this suddenly coming up on the rail? Why it’s two-time green-jacket winner Bubba Watson, that’s who! He’s just birdied 13, birdied 14, and eagled 15 to sail up the leader board in short order! He very nearly picks up another shot at the par-three 16th, splashing from the bunker near the water, 20 feet past the hole, and allowing the camber to take his ball back towards the cup. It’s one turn away from a sensational birdie. He’s -10, and won’t be all that far away from the lead in a minute or two.
Molinari finds Rae’s Creek at 12!
Molinari sends a weak iron into 12. It hangs in the breeze, then falls limply on the bank and back into Rae’s Creek. The blood drains from the Open champion’s face. Tiger claps a 9-iron into the heart of the green. He’s some way from the hole, but he’s safe and dry. Unlike Finau, who follows Molinari into the azure vagueness. Well that’s put the big stripy cat among the pigeons.
Ian Poulter follows his playing partner Brooks Koepka into Rae’s Creek. Both will have to chip from the dropzone, hoping desperately to limit the damage to bogey. Koepka can’t manage it, though he chips close. A short putt pushed right, and that could be fatal to the US Open and PGA champion’s hopes. Ditto Poulter, who makes double bogey as well. They’re -9 and -7 respectively. On 11, Molinari and Woods both go extremely close with medium-length birdie putts. Pars. Finau makes his par too. Meanwhile an eventful par for Patrick Cantlay at 13. A drive sent into trees, a shank into the gallery, a chip thinned through the green, then up and down for par. And birdies for Jason Day at 13 and 15, and he suddenly joins the leading pack!
The wind’s beginning to pick up. It’s swirling around Amen Corner, and this famous stretch picks up its latest victim in Brooks Koepka! He sends his tee shot at 12 high into the breeze, and it only just gets over Rae’s Creek, landing on the bank and springing back into the briny. Meanwhile back on 11, Molinari is able to squeeze his second shot from the second cut on the right under some overhanging trees and onto the front of the green. For a second it looked like his ball might kick left into the water, but it gripped on the green and he’s safe with a 25-footer for birdie! And Tiger’s once again found his avenue in the trees! He’s able to lash his second into the heart of the green! Lucky Tiger! That really was an appalling drive. But he’s grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Bogey for Poulter at 11, the result of a drive sent into the trees down the right. He slips back to -9. Par for Koepka. Tiger, in the group behind, sends his tee shot into the same woodland. That’s miles right. He did this yesterday, and got a huge break, his ball ending up in a clearing with a straight route to the green. Tiger – and thousands of patrons at Augusta National – will be hoping and praying that history is about to repeat itself.
Finau has just enough room between a couple of tall trees to chip up onto the green. He does so beautifully, whipping his ball high into the air and landing it six feet from the pin. Molinari gets a drop from a sprinkler head, but there’s a big bank in front of him, and not much green to play with. He goes high too … and nearly holes out! He’ll be more than happy with his par, especially as Tiger can’t make his 20-foot par saver. Finau dribbles his short par putt left of the hole, and that’s a needless bogey. After such a good chip as well.
-13: Molinari (10)
-11: Koepka (10), Woods (10)
-10: Cantlay (12), Schauffele (12), Poulter (10), Finau (10)
Finau pulls his approach at 10 down the swale to the left of the green. That’ll be a tough up and down from there. Molinari also sends his second left, his going over the back. Tiger is forced to chip back out from behind a shrub, and sends his third towards the flag. The ball nearly falls off the back of the green, but the apron holds it up, and he’ll have a chance to save his par.
Tiger whistles his drive down 10 into bother on the right. Finau and Molinari are down the middle. Up on 11, Schauffele makes his third birdie in four holes, curling in a monster from the back of the green, left to right, gently dropping to wild cheers. He moves back into contention at -10. And some news of the folk he’s just left at -9: Jason Day, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm are all three under for their final round through 13 holes. Just too far behind, you’d have thought, given the number of players ahead of them, and the holes running out. But they’re all giving it a good go.
Molinari does well to work his putt down to six feet from where he was. It looked like a bog-standard effort when compared with Tiger’s ludicrous putt, yet it was a brilliant putt in its own right. He knocks in the one coming back, of course he does. Par for Finau, a fine up and down from sand. The final group reaches the turn, and so we announce the start of the 2019 Masters Tournament! With Koepka curling in a fine par saver up on 10, and punching the air in celebration of his mistake, here’s what the top of the leader board looks like.
-13: Molinari (9)
-12: Woods (9)
-11: Koepka (10), Finau (9)
-10: Cantlay (12), Poulter (10)
Cantlay isn’t far off draining a long birdie putt on 11. Having shot 64 yesterday, he’s the pick of the chasing pack today, the form horse in the field over the weekend. If he keeps going like this, you never know. He’s timing his run up the leader board perfectly. Koepka splashes out at 10 to give himself a good chance of scrambling his par; he’s left with an eight-footer. And back on 9, a simply sensational 80-foot putt from the back of the green by Tiger! He’s forced to set it out way right, then dribble it almost to a halt before it topples down a ridge. Letting gravity do its thing, he stops his ball an inch from the hole! If that had dropped, you’d be seeing it again and again and again, rather like his famous chip-tease on 16 in 2005. You’ll see it often enough anyway. But we were an inch away from one of the great Masters moments! Par.
For the third time today, Koepka gets a good break after lashing his ball into the gallery. A fine lie, and a straight line into the green. But he sends a slice into the bunker to the right. So for the first time today, he doesn’t take advantage of his good fortune. Poulter is on in two.
Finau’s ball is near the base of a pine tree, but he can get a full swing to it, and hooks for the green. He gives it too much, and the ball ends in the bunker to the left. Tiger hits a dreadful second, his ball nearly topping off the back of the green. He’ll have a treacherous putt coming back. Molinari is last to hit in, and he doesn’t get particularly close. But of the three in the final group, he’s probably in the best nick.
Tiger and Molinari find the middle of the 9th fairway, but Finau hooks into some troublesome trees on the left. On 10, Koepka flays a dreadful drive deep into bother on the right, while Poulter’s tee shot only just turns into the first cut on the right. Up on the 11th green, it’s another birdie for Patrick Cantlay, and he’s just three off Molinari’s lead now at -10!
Poulter’s line, down a glassy green, goes along a mammoth right-to-left route. He tickles it down marvellously to four feet, and saves his par. He’s given Koepka a read, and the three-time major winner nearly takes advantage, but his ball stops one turn short. Meanwhile Tiger’s quite a way off the back of 8, but he bumps his chip up well, to ten feet or so. In goes a straight putt, like an arrow, and that’s back-to-back birdies! Molinari knocks in his birdie putt, calm as you like, to regain the stroke he shed at the previous hole! What a response, especially as things weren’t looking too promising when he was staring into the face of that bunker. And Finau makes it three birdies out of three in this final group. This final round took a wee while to get going, but it’s beginning to bubble up now!
-13: Molinari (8)
-12: Woods (8)
-11: Koepka (9), Finau (8)
-10: Poulter (9)
-9: Cantlay (10), Schauffele (9)
A strange one by Koepka, who hammers a glorious drive down 9, then hits his wedge way past the hole. He’s on the green, but facing a tricky downhill putt, and he’d have hoped to go close. Poulter’s right next to him, with the same problem to solve. The Englishman doesn’t look particularly happy right now, having been forced to settle for a three-putt par on the 8th, racing his long eagle effort 25 feet past the flag. And on the 8th, Molinari eases his third to 12 feet, and he’ll have a chance for a nerve-settling birdie.
Birdie for Schauffele at 9, following a shot picked up at 8, and he’s turning in 35. He’s just three off the lead at -9, and that’s right in the mix considering Molinari’s current travails. The leader is faced with a steep bank in the bunker, so doesn’t skirt with danger. He wedges out, and he’ll be hitting into the green from distance. Tiger meanwhile is in the first cut under the trees down the right. He’ll have a lash at the green with a fairway wood … and sends a hot one well over the back. Finau, by contrast, is in the middle of the green in two, with an outside chance of eagle.
Tiger’s drive at the par-five 8th clears the bunker down the right but toys with the trees. Finau finds the fairway; Molinari looks to have found sand. Up on the green, Koepka makes birdie having sent his second just off the back, getting up and down with ease. And he joins Tiger in a share of second at -11! How quickly things can change at the Masters, because Molinari was looking in fine nick just 20 minutes ago, but suddenly he’s in a spot of bother with serial major winners Woods and Koepka circling!
Molinari gently lifts his pitch over the flag, hoping the tilt of the green will gather his ball back towards the hole. It doesn’t, though, and he’ll be left with a tricky, slippery 12-foot downhill putt to save yet another par. He’s made 19 out of 19 scrambles so far this week … but he can’t make this one. His first bogey since making five at the 11th on Thursday; that’s an end to the second-longest bogey-free streak (49 holes) in Masters history. Meanwhile Tiger tidies up for his birdie – par for Finau – and is this a pivotal moment in the story of the 2019 Masters? The patrons certainly seem to think so!
-12: Molinari (7)
-11: Woods (7)
-10: Koepka (7), Poulter (7), Finau (7)
-9: Cantlay (9)
Molinari goes for the green anyway, hitting a big hook around the trees. He doesn’t quite catch it, and the ball stops short of the bunker front right of the green. Another testing up-and-down to make par awaits him. And he could do with making it, because this time Tiger’s going to make his birdie for sure, sending his second 15 feet past the flag, and spinning it back to tap-in distance! That’s got the gallery whooping and hollering again; Augusta National had fallen a little quiet, with nobody making a charge at the leader. It’s not quiet now.
Molinari hits another wayward tee shot, this time into the trees down the left of 7. He’s surrounded by pines, and it doesn’t look as though he’s got a route to the green. He’s gone 49 holes without a bogey. Will he fall just short of his half century?
Tiger doesn’t hit his ten-foot birdie putt. It’s clearly drifting off to the left the second it leaves the face of his putter. A par that’ll feel like a bogey, so good was the tee shot. And he’ll feel twice as gutted, Molinari guiding home his putt to scramble yet another par, sensationally so in this instance. That’ll almost feel like a two-shot swing, with Woods looking good for birdie as the leader struggled. Par for Finau, too. Meanwhile a birdie for Fowler at 8, making up for a bogey at 7 caused by an inability to escape from a greenside bunker. And birdie for Poulter on 7, who suddenly finds himself in second place!
-13: Molinari (6)
-10: Koepka (7), Poulter (7), Finau (6), Woods (6)
Molinari will get a drop from the middle of the gallery. He makes sure to ostentatiously drop it from knee height, the new rules and all that. His lie is fine, but he’s facing a hellishly difficult bump-and-run, the ground sloping down, then coming back up towards the putting surface, and there’s little green to play with when he’s up there. He clips his wedge into the face of the bank, taking the sting out of the shot. The ball creeps up on to the green, then topples over the brow onto the short stuff. He’ll have a seven-foot look at par to save his long run without a bogey – since the 11th on Thursday – and that’s just about the best he could have done from there.
Molinari’s tee shot at the par-three 6th is over the flag but a wee bit long. It lands on the downslope just behind the green and flies into the gallery behind. That might have clumped some poor patron upside the head. While the leader thinks about that, Tiger responds to making back-to-back bogeys by landing his tee shot ten feet from the flag! This is not over by a long chalk. But then we knew that already.
Molinari curls his par saver into the middle of the cup, saving a par rather brilliantly. Finau takes two putts for his bogey, and suddenly things are looking very healthy for the Open champion! He tries not to smile as he makes his way off the green, but a grin spreads across his face anyway. He’s really in the driving seat now. The tournament only really starts in four holes’ time, mind.
-13: Molinari (5)
-10: Koepka (6), Finau (5), Woods (5)
-9: Cantlay (8), Poulter (6)
-8: Day (9), Mickelson (8), Rahm (8), Oosthuizen (7), Harding (6), Schauffele (6), Simpson (6)
Tiger’s up next, from 50 feet. There’s a huge right-to-left break on a wickedly sloping green. He doesn’t judge it particularly well, either; it’s always high and wide, and ends up a good 12 feet past. The par putt slides by the right of the cup, and he’s bogeyed this hole every time he’s played it this week. He’s back to -10. Up on 6, Koepka sends his tee shot over the green and down a bank at the back. He sends his second six feet past the cup. He can’t make the one coming back, and he slips back to -10. And a birdie for his partner Poulter, who wipes out the bogey at 2 and returns to -9.
An eagle for Jon Rahm on 8! That comes off birdie at 7, and he’s -8. Probably just a little bit too far back, though time will tell. Molinari opts to whip a high lob into the air from the front of 5, as opposed to taking his putter, and very nearly slam dunks his ball straight into the cup. But it rolls five feet past. Finau then demonstrates why Molinari decided to chip, because there’s a ridge across the green, and he doesn’t give his putt enough to get over it. The ball breaks off to the right, still some way from the cup, and he’ll be doing pretty well to limit the damage to bogey.
Unlike Koepka before him, Molinari doesn’t get a drop from the downtrodden grass. He’s not on the path. These are the small margins that might make a difference when it all comes down. He cracks a fairway wood greenwards, the ball coming up just short. He’ll have a chance to get up and down to save his par nevertheless. Tiger only just finds the dancefloor with his second, coming in from distance on this long, long, super-extended par four. Finau only just gets on the front too. All three will have some work to do for their pars.
The patrons down the right of 5 will be wondering what they’ve done to annoy these golfers. It’s not long since Koepka lashed his drive into them. Now Molinari and Finau follow up that attack with a couple of over-excited slices. Tiger decides to play it safe and eases a fairway wood down the middle. There’s out of bounds over there, and Molinari looks particularly concerned as his ball travels off towards a verdant vagueness. Up on the green, Koepka takes two putts for par.
Schauffele’s fast start is now but a memory. A par putt horseshoes out on 5, and that’s two bogeys in three holes, negating his fine opening birdie-birdie salvo. He’s back to -8. Koepka gets more luck after an errant drive, getting a drop off a path trodden down by the patrons. He wedges into the green. Back on 4, Tiger leaves his putt from the front ten feet short. He can’t make the one that’s left, and he immediately hands back the shot he’d picked up at the previous hole. Finau gets up and down from the back for his par. Molinari takes two careful putts, par. And without doing anything dramatic, his two-shot lead at the top is restored! Meanwhile another birdie for Cantlay, this time at 7, and of the chasing pack, he’s the one making the most positive move. He’s three under for his round.
-13: Molinari (4)
-11: Koepka (4), Finau (4), Woods (4)
-9: Cantlay (7), Schauffele (4), Simpson (4)
Tiger’s tee shot at 4 isn’t hit flush. His iron only just creeps onto the large green, the pin at the rear, then falls back off the front. Molinari responds by whip-cracking his tee shot pin high to 20 feet. He’s looking steady right now. Finau hits a similar tee shot, his ball just toppling off the back of the green, but not by much. Up on the elongated par-four 5th, Koepka sends another wild drive right, this time over the patrons. He’ll need another stroke of luck there.
Molinari trundles his putt from the fringe to a couple of feet, so that’s his third par from three holes. But that leaves the door ajar for Tiger. He’s got a ten-footer … and he walks it in! A first birdie in this final group! And he’s just one stroke behind Molinari now. The crowd react accordingly. Finau does well to get up and down from just off the back for his par. Meanwhile a fine two-putt par from distance by Koepka on 4.
-13: Molinari (3)
-12: Woods (3)
-11: Koepka (4), Finau (3)
-9: Schauffele (4), Simpson (4)
Kuchar can’t get up and down from the side of 4, and hands back the shot he picked up at 2. He’s -8, and walks off the green wearing a fixed smile. Bogey for Oosthuizen on the difficult 5th, and he slips to -8. Back on 3, Molinari lays up with his tee shot so he can hit a full wedge into the green. He clips a fine one to 20 feet. Tiger sends his wedge inside, though: a match-play style putting shoot-out coming up! Finau, having driven into the first cut down the left, can’t impart any spin on the ball and sends his second through the green and over the back.
Another birdie for Patrick Cantlay, who responds to a dropped shot at 4 by rolling home a monster right-to-left curler on 5. He’s -8. Meanwhile a break for Koepka on 3, his ball having taken a kick back in from the gallery. Then another stroke of luck, as he chases his chip through the green, the ball threatening to drop down a bank. It topples off the green, but sticks on the turf and doesn’t go far. Two putts from the fringe, and he stays in a tie for second.
-13: Molinari (2)
-11: Koepka (3), Finau (2), Woods (2)
-9: Oosthuizen (4), Kuchar (3), Schauffele (3), Simpson (3)
Molinari knocks his chip from the front of 2 to ten feet. Finau lobs over the sand and the flag to eight feet, a fine shot from where he’d left himself, though the putt coming back is treacherous. Tiger’s left with a 60-footer, and does well to get his first putt to eight feet. Finau’s birdie attempt slips by the side; par. Ditto Molinari; par. And Tiger makes his par too. He’d have taken that upon watching his drive whistle into trouble. Meanwhile a third birdie in four holes for Mickelson, this time at 6, and he’s -8. Not quite out of it yet! Maybe!
Molinari cracks a fairway metal to the edge of the 2nd green. Finau hits a clunker that leaves his ball in front of the big bunker on the right, the pin tucked behind with not much green to play with. Tiger’s third reaches the green, but only just, and he’s left with a long putt up for birdie. Up on 3, Koepka lashes his drive into the punters down the right, while ahead, Schauffele needs two chips to get up the big bank at the front of the green. He nearly holes the second for birdie, hitting the flagstick, but the ball rolls on ten feet past. He can’t make the putt coming back, and that’s a bogey that puts an end to that flying start. He’s -9.
Tiger’s ball is dry, but down a bank of pine straw. He takes his medicine and chips back out onto the fairway. Up on the green, Ian Poulter’s approach takes a hot bounce through the green and over the back. It’s a tricky chip up a bank, with not much of a downhill green to work with. His ball rolls to the fringe behind the flag. Two putts later, and that’s a bogey that drops him back to -8. Birdie for Brooks Koepka, though, and he joins Finau and Woods in a share of second at -11.
Mickelson’s not going to win this Masters, and become the oldest major winner of all time by doing so. The 1968 PGA winner Julius Boros’s record will stand for at least another month. But Phil still knows how to thrill the crowds: he lashes his second at 6 from 215 yards into the green, sending his ball rolling serenely towards the cup. It’s surely going in for eagle … but it stops one dimple short. He’ll breathe on that lightly for his birdie to move to -7.
That par save on 1 should stand Molinari in good stead. A real nerve-settler after a jumpy first putt. He sends his drive at 2 down the track. Finau launches his tee shot many miles. And finally Tiger, who got away with quite a few wild ones yesterday. He’ll need the big stick to behave better today, because his outrageous luck on 11 and 13 yesterday surely can’t last. And oh dear, he flays his drive into the trees down the left. There’s water running down the hill there, too. God speed, Tiger.
Birdie for Matt Kuchar at 2. And another birdie for his playing partner Xander Schauffele, a major champion in waiting for sure. Speaking of which, Rickie Fowler has started birdie-par-par, the latest saved by a fine 15-footer on 3. He’s -8.
-13: Molinari (1)
-11: Finau (1), Woods (1)
-10: Schauffele (2), Koepka (1)
-9: Oosthuizen (2), Kuchar (2), Simpson (1), Poulter (1)
Molinari is able to get his putter to his ball from the fringe at the back of 1. A rush of blood, combined with a few jangling nerves, sends the putt a good 15 feet past the hole. Tiger’s up next from 25 feet. The birdie putt doesn’t drop, and he leaves himself with a testing four-footer. Back to Molinari, whose right-to-left uphill slider drops gracefully in the cup! What a save! So much for nerves, calm as you like. He’s still only dropped one shot all week! Tiger meanwhile tidies up for par, while Finau gets up and down from just off the front. Pars all round. Here’s Grant Tennille with a Stateside punditry update: “Sir Nick Faldo points out that while Molinari held off Tiger at Carnoustie, the latter’s support here is massive, and just how the former will react to some trademark roars on Woods’ behalf could be another layer of intrigue in a final round that already boasts a surfeit of them.”
Simpson does extremely well to lash his ball out of tree-related bother on 1 and onto the fringe of the green. He works his third up to five feet, and scrambles a fine par. Opening par-fours too for Koepka and Poulter. And behind them, the final group take to the stage. Tiger and Molinari find the fairway with 3-woods, while Finau skelps his drive onto pine straw down the left. Finau chases his second up to the fringe, Molinari goes just over the back, and Tiger finds the heart of the green. Meanwhile bogey for Spieth at 5, who slips back to -6, and birdie for Rory at 15. He’s finally putting something together, moving to -4, but it’s all way too late.
Hole-in-one for DeChambeau!
It’s the 21st hole-in-one at 16 in the history of the Masters! Bryson DeChambeau was an inch away from acing this hole on Thursday; well, he’s gone one inch better on Sunday! He lands his tee shot 20 feet to the right of the flag, and the tilt of the green does the rest, gathering the ball to the left and a little bit backwards, and rolling gently into the cup! No more than he’s deserved for lighting up this tournament, despite his occasional struggles. After his double bogey, double bogey start today, he’s birdied 12, birdied 15 and now aced 16. A card of 6-6-2-5-4-4-1. The young Californian’s smile lights up that corner of Augusta on this overcast day.
A fast start for Patrick Cantlay, who shot 64 yesterday and looks in the mood again. Birdies at 1 and 2, and he’s -8. An up-and-down start for Phil the Thrill, who bogeys the opening hole but climbs back to -6 with birdie at 3. Kevin Kisner is three under for his round through six holes, having birdied 11, 13 and 15: he’s -5. And another birdie for the amateur Viktor Hovland, this time at 16, and the US Amateur champion is closing in on that Silver Cup. At -4 he’s four clear of Alvaro Ortiz (E thru 4*), five ahead of Takumi Kanaya (+1 thru 6*) and nine clear of Devon Bling (+5 thru 3*). All four have been fantastic, though: this is the first time for two decades that four amateurs have made it through to the weekend.
Brooks Koepka, the reigning US Open and PGA champion, crashes his opening drive down Tea Olive. Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open 2018 Players champion, is forced to shout “fore left!” And finally it’s Ian Poulter, who is looking to become the first player over the age of 43 to win his maiden major since Roberto De Vicenzo triumphed in the Open at Hoylake in 1967. He splits the fairway. Meanwhile up on the green, Xander Schauffele, who stuttered towards the end of his round yesterday with bogeys at 15 and 18, repairs some of the damage with an opening birdie. Justin Harding matches that, the pair moving to -9.
Rory nearly follows up his eagle with birdie on 14, having found the centre of the green in two. But his uphill putt from 30 feet dies to the right, pace rather than line the issue. He swishes his putter through the air in frustration, less over that putt than his erratic display this week, I’ll be bound. He stays at -3. And a third birdie for the irrepressible Jordan Spieth, this time at 4, and what he’d give to play his first nine holes this week once more. The 2015 champion is -7.
Justin Thomas was just a roll away from draining a long eagle putt on 2. That birdie moved him to -7. His playing partner Jon Rahm matches him; he’s -7 too. Meanwhile in too-little-too-late news, Rory McIlroy makes eagle at 13 to move to -3. His second only just got over Rae’s Creek, but the pin’s near the front and his ball having crept on, a ten-foot putt was all that was left.
Feels strange that, despite this early hour, the top of the Sunday leader board is beginning to stir. Birdies for Louis Oosthuizen and Rickie Fowler at Tea Olive, and here we go!
-11: Finau, Woods
-9: Oosthuizen (1), Simpson, Poulter
-8: D Johnson (1), Fowler (1), Kuchar, Harding, Schauffele
-7: Day (2), Thomas (2), Scott (1), Cantlay (1)
-6: Spieth (3), Rahm
Birdie for the Norwegian amateur Viktor Hovland at 15. He’s beginning to put some daylight between himself and his Silver Cup rivals. He’s -3 through five holes today. Takumi Kanaya (4*) and Alvaro Ortiz (2*) are both four shots behind at +1, while Devon Bling has bogeyed his opening hole, the 10th, and slips to +3. This is a race worth keeping an eye on: past winners of the Silver Cup include Cary Middlecoff, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, all of whom went on to become a major champion. Hovland and Kanaya in particular are very highly regarded by those who keep an eye on such things.
Another birdie for Jordan Spieth! Greenside of the par-five 2nd in two, he chips over the big bunker guarding the front left and rolls his ball across the massive green to nine feet. In goes the putt, and he’s -6. I wonder if he’ll start to think about that five-over front nine on Thursday? If he’d hit the ground running, he’d be right in the mix for a second green jacket! He was supposedly a spent force coming into this tournament. Nope! I don’t think so!
Mac Millings with the weather. “The weather through my window here in South Carolina – a mere two hours and 22 minutes from Augusta National in current traffic – suggests that your thunderstorm fears are entirely unfounded. At the moment, it’s partially cloudy with a couple of trees, and a lot of sun right in my eyes. Course hazards include an occasional car, and a group of four ladies walking up and down in running gear.” I know, I know, but we couldn’t afford Michael Fish.
Viktor Hovland, the US Amateur champion, is leading the race for the Silver Cup. He’s started out with four pars today, 10 through 13, and he remains at -2 overall. His nearest challenger, Takumi Kanaya, who was leading for a while on Thursday, opened bogey-bogey at 10 and 11, and he slips to +1. Alvaro Oritz is +1 overall having opened with par at 10, while Devon Bling has only just started his round. He’s +2. “The early start is perfect for us over here,” yawns Matt Dony, still in his slippers, a sliver of yolk from a fried-egg sandwich running down the front of his pyjamas. “The Masters so often delivers on drama, but that drama often comes late at night. This way, we can get it all done and dusted, and be able to focus on Match Of The Day 2. Seeing Tiger up there, right in the mix, warms the cockles of my old, cynical heart. I’d love to see him win just one more major. Just one more flash of absolute, mind-boggling genius. Go on, Tiger. One more time.”
Jordan Spieth has definitely rediscovered his mojo this week. His form has been appalling of late, and a front nine of 40 on Thursday didn’t augur well. But the brilliant young street-fighting Texan loves duking it out with Augusta National – in five previous visits, his record here is a scarcely believable T2-1-T2-T11-3 – and he’s since shown that you can’t keep a genius down for long. Back in 35 on Thursday to limit the damage, then rounds of 68 and 69. He’s opened today with a birdie – he’s-5 now – and will fancy himself for a low score today that’ll catapult him up the leader board and keep that Augusta record looking as pretty as a bed of azaleas.
Easy to forget about first-round co-leader Bryson DeChambeau. Especially if you didn’t read the preamble to this report. That closing run of his opening 66 – birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie – could easily have featured three eagles. Tot up the lengths of the tap-ins at 15, 16 and 18, and it’d be a couple of feet at best. At that point the thoughtful 25-year-old Californian looked a reasonable bet for his breakthrough major. His eye was in. But it all fell apart midway during his second round, when his flat stick turned stone cold. Five shots dropped in six holes around the turn led to a 75, and yesterday’s 73 wasn’t much better in the context of all the low scoring going on around him. And his putter hasn’t warmed up at all this morning: a three-putt from 15 feet at 10, the result of flying his first a good seven feet past, ends in a double bogey. That’s a score he’s repeated at 11, after finding the lake guarding the front-left of the famous downhill par-four White Dogwood. To be fair, the 10th, Camellia, is playing the hardest hole on the course, while 11 has been the third hardest all week. But still, that’s four over after two holes this morning. Thursday seems an awfully long time ago. He’s now +2 overall.
It’s fitting that the first birdie of the final round has been made by Patton Kizzire, one of this tournament’s early pacesetters. The man from Montgomery, Alabama led for a while on the opening day, before bogeying the last and posting a 70. Another 70 on Friday kept him on the fringes of the action, but a 73 during yesterday’s free-scoring bonanza sent him back into the pack. Still, he’s got some upward momentum, having birdied 16 and 18 yesterday afternoon. This opening-hole birdie today, reward for a fine approach from 170 yards at Tea Olive to ten feet, sends him up to -4, a tie for 22nd. He’s well on course to record his best finish at a major, which is currently tied-49th at the 2016 PGA.
The play-off format. If the leaders are tied after 72 manic holes, it’ll be time for a final mano-a-mano showdown. The Masters is the only major that goes immediately to sudden death. Just as Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose did in 2017, they’d play the 18th again, then if no result it’d be on to the 10th. And if there’s still no splitting them, it’s back to the 18th, then the 10th, then the 18th, and so on, and so forth, until a winner emerges or the wrath of God crackles down in electrical form and we’re forced to wait until Monday. Like I say, fingers crossed. “Leaders off at 2.20?!” splutters Simon McMahon, iced tea everywhere. “It’s the Open Championship. In April. With added sunshine. And patrons. Plus pimento cheese!” You sell it well. I’m in.
The weather. It’s warm at Augusta right now, if overcast. It’s expected to get a little bit windy today, the breeze picking up as the day goes on. But nothing too dramatic yet. The proper storms, thunder, lightning and all, are expected to rock up at 3pm local time, give or take, which gives Tiger, Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari, the last group out at 9.20am, a good five hours to get round. And then they can cram in a quick sudden-death play-off if needs be. Plenty of time. Fingers crossed.
There’s only one way to start. With the possible exception of Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan, the best music ever put out by CBS. How does it feel?
Good morning Augusta!
The 83rd Masters Tournament has been one hell of a ride already. The laser-guided denouement to Bryson DeChambeau’s opening round of 66 set the tone: inches from eagle, centimetres from hole-in-one, chip in for birdie, flagstick hit flush and millimetres from eagle. Brooks Koepka also shot a 66. Since then, there’s been a 65 for Xander Schauffele and 64s for Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau. Yesterday the field shot its lowest cumulative score in Masters history. Current leader Francesco Molinari (70-67-66) has bogeyed just one of the first 54 holes, while Tiger Woods is chasing his first major for 11 years despite driving like a blindfolded Severiano Ballesteros. Fiction has nothing on golf.
It’s been sensational … and to think, the Masters historically doesn’t really get going until the back nine today! Shame about the thunder and lightning heading for Augusta this afternoon, forcing us all into this early start, the players going out in threes on split tees, hoping to get the job done and dusted before the climate closes in. It’s sunny all next week too; typical, huh. But hey, you can’t have everything. Because look what the golfing gods have served up! This promises to be one of the most memorable Masters Sundays in history. Here’s to the weather holding off, and the final round delivering in style. Don’t go anywhere else: it’s on!
-11: Finau, Woods
-9: Simpson, Poulter
-8: Kuchar, Harding, Schauffele, Oosthuizen, D Johnson
-7: Fowler, Scott
-6: Cantlay, Olesen, Thomas, Mickelson, Rahm, Day
-5: Watson, Bjerregaard
-4: Spieth, Fleetwood, Conners
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