For the first time ever, five major champions were tied for the lead of a major championship. And lurking one shot behind were two more major winners, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. How could anything get better than that?
Then Saturday came along, and the Masters outdid itself. As good as Friday was, what this first men’s major of the year gave us Saturday, teeing up Sunday’s Breakfast at the Masters, was even better.
It was the lowest scoring day in Masters history, a collective and surreal 80-under par, and it produced the tantalizing story line of Woods playing himself into Sunday’s final group with his own personal gem of a round, a five-under 67.
That was good, but the two men who will be playing with Woods Sunday were even better Saturday. Italy’s Francesco Molinari, the reigning British Open champion and one of the quintet of leaders when the day began, shot 6-under 66, while the powerful Tony Finau, teeing off an hour and a half before Molinari, set the tone of the day by firing a 64. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a total of 19-under par for the three of them on the day.
This scorching-hot trio will be playing together — Molinari at 13-under for the tournament, two strokes ahead of Finau and Woods – because the weather is expected to be so bad Sunday afternoon that the Masters decided to begin play at 7:30 a.m. Sunday – and not in twosomes. Threesomes will go off both the first and 10th tees, with the final group beginning bright and early at 9:20.
The possibilities are so enticing that it made perfect sense to have little more than a 12-hour wait from the end of Saturday’s historically low round to the start of one of the most anticipated final rounds in memory. Why wait another minute?
With so many men in contention to win, it seems silly to focus solely on Molinari and Woods, but you almost can’t help doing it because just two majors ago, they were paired together in the final round — at last summer’s British Open — with Molinari prevailing for his first major title, beating Tiger by two strokes on the day and by three overall.
It’s only natural to be intrigued by the rematch, but that could be foolhardy, Molinari said.
“There’s a lot of guys playing great,” he said. “It’s going to be a battle. The course was getable today. If it’s getable Sunday, someone will shoot seven, eight, nine under. There’s him (Woods). There’s lots of guys. I wish I had to worry only about him.”
Past being prologue, Molinari is probably right. It could get downright crazy out there Sunday, if only because that’s exactly what happened Saturday.
How good was that third round? By the time the final twosome, Molinari and Jason Day, teed off, they already had lost their lead. They weren’t tied for second or third or fourth. They were tied for fifth.
The five leaders went this way and that. We know about Molinari, steady as they come, with only one bogey in the first three rounds, that coming Thursday on the 11th hole. Koepka too: His 69 seemed so routine, you had to wonder if he really wasn’t the favorite on Sunday if he plays the way he is able.
Louis Oosthuizen was a puzzlement, good but not great, shooting 1-under on the day. Adam Scott shot even-par 72, with this refrain: if only he could make a putt. And Day, playing in the last group, had his moments, but a double bogey on 15 and bogey on 18 left him shooting one-over, seven strokes off the lead.
Golf has a fascinating way of reshuffling the deck from one day to the next. Asked what to expect and who will win Sunday, Molinari had no idea.
“The favorite is probably the golf course out there, waiting for us.”
And us with it.
Officials moved up the starting times several hours Sunday and grouped the players in threesomes. All of this is being done because of a fearsome spring storm forecast to hit the Augusta, Ga., area in the afternoon.
Tee times are scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. ET off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees.
The final grouping of Francesco Molinari, Tiger Woods and Tony Finau will go off from No. 1 at 9:20 a.m.
The live CBS broadcast of final round play begins at 9 a.m. ET.
“The safety of everyone on our grounds is paramount,” said Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament. “We also believe the earlier start will give us the best opportunity to complete the Masters on Sunday. This decision should benefit everyone – the players, our patrons and our fans watching around the world.M
Masters Final Round Tee Times
|Tee Time (ET)||Pairing|
|7:30 a.m.||Aaron Wise, Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim|
|7:41 a.m.||Matthew Fitzpatrick, Kevin Tway, Patton Kizzire|
|7:52 a.m.||Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama, Cameron Smith|
|8:03 a.m.||Jordan Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood, Corey Conners|
|8:14 a.m.||Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Lucas Bjerregaard|
|8:25 a.m.||Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm|
|8:36 a.m.||Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Thorbjorn Olesen|
|8:47 a.m.||Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler|
|8:58 a.m.||Matt Kuchar, Justin Harding, Xander Schauffele|
|9:09 a.m.||Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson, Ian Poulter|
|9:20 a.m.||Francesco Molinari, Tony Finau, Tiger Woods|
|Tee Time (ET)||Pairing|
|7:30 a.m.||Kyle Stanley, *Viktor Hovland, Charley Hoffman|
|7:41 a.m.||Kevin Kisner, Bryson DeChambeau, *Takumi Kanaya|
|7:52 a.m.||Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Gary Woodland|
|8:03 a.m.||Jimmy Walker, J. B. Holmes, Charles Howell III|
|8:14 a.m.||Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Kevin Na, *Alvaro Ortiz|
|8:25 a.m.||Patrick Reed, *Devon Bling, Keith Mitchell|
|8:36 a.m.||Tyrrell Hatton, Satoshi Kodaira, Andrew Landry|
|8:47 a.m.||Bernhard Langer, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Eddie Pepperell|
|8:58 a.m.||Branden Grace, Martin Kaymer, Haotong Li|
|9:09 a.m.||Emiliano Grillo, Zach Johnson, Billy Horschel|
|9:20 a.m.||Trevor Immelman, Alex Noren|
|* – Amateur|
Final Round Hole Locations
|1||Francesco Molinari ||-6||F||-13||70||67||66||–|
|T2||Tony Finau ||-8||F||-11||71||70||64||–|
|T2||Tiger Woods ||-5||F||-11||70||68||67||–|
|4||Brooks Koepka ||-3||F||-10||66||71||69||–|
|T5||Webb Simpson ||-8||F||-9||72||71||64||–|
|T5||Ian Poulter ||-4||F||-9||68||71||68||–|
|T7||Matt Kuchar ||-4||F||-8||71||69||68||–|
|T7||Justin Harding ||-2||F||-8||69||69||70||–|
|T7||Dustin Johnson ||-2||F||-8||68||70||70||–|
|T7||Xander Schauffele ||-2||F||-8||73||65||70||–|
|T7||Louis Oosthuizen ||-1||F||-8||71||66||71||–|
|T12||Rickie Fowler ||-4||F||-7||70||71||68||–|
|T12||Adam Scott ||E||F||-7||69||68||72||–|
|T14||Patrick Cantlay ||-8||F||-6||73||73||64||–|
|T14||Thorbjorn Olesen ||-4||F||-6||71||71||68||–|
|T14||Justin Thomas ||-3||F||-6||73||68||69||–|
|T14||Phil Mickelson ||-2||F||-6||67||73||70||–|
|T14||Jon Rahm ||-1||F||-6||69||70||71||–|
|T14||Jason Day ||1||F||-6||70||67||73||–|
|T20||Bubba Watson ||-5||F||-5||72||72||67||–|
|T20||Lucas Bjerregaard ||-3||F||-5||70||72||69||–|
|T22||Jordan Spieth ||-3||F||-4||75||68||69||–|
|T22||Tommy Fleetwood ||-2||F||-4||71||71||70||–|
|T22||Corey Conners ||-1||F||-4||70||71||71||–|
|T25||Henrik Stenson ||-5||F||-3||74||72||67||–|
|T25||Matthew Fitzpatrick ||-4||F||-3||78||67||68||–|
|T25||Hideki Matsuyama ||-4||F||-3||75||70||68||–|
|T25||Cameron Smith ||-3||F||-3||70||74||69||–|
|T25||Kevin Tway ||-2||F||-3||72||71||70||–|
|T25||Patton Kizzire ||1||F||-3||70||70||73||–|
|T31||Aaron Wise ||-4||F||-2||75||71||68||–|
|T31||Si Woo Kim ||-2||F||-2||72||72||70||–|
|T31||Marc Leishman ||-2||F||-2||72||72||70||–|
|T31||Kyle Stanley ||-2||F||-2||72||72||70||–|
|T31||Viktor Hovland ||-1||F||-2||72||71||71||–|
|T31||Charley Hoffman ||E||F||-2||71||71||72||–|
|T31||Kevin Kisner ||E||F||-2||69||73||72||–|
|T31||Bryson DeChambeau ||1||F||-2||66||75||73||–|
|T39||Takumi Kanaya ||-4||F||-1||73||74||68||–|
|T39||Keegan Bradley ||-1||F||-1||76||68||71||–|
|T39||Rory McIlroy ||-1||F||-1||73||71||71||–|
|T39||Gary Woodland ||2||F||-1||70||71||74||–|
|T43||Jimmy Walker ||E||F||E||72||72||72||–|
|T43||J.B. Holmes ||2||F||E||70||72||74||–|
|T43||Kiradech Aphibarnrat ||3||F||E||69||72||75||–|
|T43||Charles Howell III ||4||F||E||73||67||76||–|
|T47||Kevin Na ||1||F||1||71||73||73||–|
|T47||Alvaro Ortiz ||1||F||1||73||71||73||–|
|T47||Patrick Reed ||2||F||1||73||70||74||–|
|T50||Devon Bling ||-1||F||2||74||73||71||–|
|T50||Tyrrell Hatton ||E||F||2||73||73||72||–|
|T50||Keith Mitchell ||E||F||2||72||74||72||–|
|T50||Satoshi Kodaira ||1||F||2||75||70||73||–|
|T50||Andrew Landry ||1||F||2||72||73||73||–|
|T50||Rafael Cabrera Bello ||3||F||2||73||70||75||–|
|T50||Bernhard Langer ||3||F||2||71||72||75||–|
|T57||Branden Grace ||E||F||3||72||75||72||–|
|T57||Eddie Pepperell ||E||F||3||74||73||72||–|
|T57||Martin Kaymer ||E||F||3||73||74||72||–|
|T57||Hao-Tong Li ||1||F||3||72||74||73||–|
|T61||Emiliano Grillo ||1||F||4||72||75||73||–|
|T61||Zach Johnson ||1||F||4||74||73||73||–|
|T63||Billy Horschel ||2||F||5||72||75||74||–|
|T63||Trevor Immelman ||3||F||5||74||72||75||–|
|65||Alexander Noren ||3||F||6||75||72||75||–|
Credit: Golf Week and USA Today