Masters 2017: History on the line for Garcia, Rose, Fowler and Spieth on Sunday
It will be a Ryder Cup-esque foursome primarily contending for the green jacket
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- I suppose there is a chance somebody from outside the top four could win the 2017 Masters, but I find it very unlikely that will happen. Justin Rose (-6), Sergio Garcia (-6), Rickie Fowler (-5) and Jordan Spieth (-4) will play in the final two pairings on Sunday and all have wildly different narratives they’ll be trying to touch off by winning the 81st Masters.
For Rose, who shot a 31 (!) on the second nine Saturday, this would be a bit of redemption for 2015 when he got boat raced by Spieth in the final round and finished runner up. He could also add to the list of big boy courses where he’s bagged tournaments including Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Congressional, Merion, Doral, Valderrama, and Royal Aberdeen. Rose is trying to emerge from his generation of 30-somethings as the group’s best player, and winning at Merion and Augusta National would go a long way in making that case given the folks on that list.
Garcia is trying to exorcise two decades worth of demons at major championships. He shot a 70 on Saturday that required all kinds of intestinal fortitude -- given the magnitude of the situation -- and will play in the final pairing on Sunday. He has been unrecognizable for most of this week when it comes to his peace and serenity at a course he has seemingly long detested.
“Golf is fun,” said Garcia on Saturday night as he heads to bed with the co-lead. “Don’t get me wrong: Obviously we’re trying to win the Masters and we’re trying to win tournaments, and there’s obviously a little bit of pressure involved and everything that goes with it.
“But it’s still fun. I love what I do. I feel like I’m so, so blessed to be able to play golf for a living. It’s been my dream since I was very, very little. So I’m just going to enjoy it as much as possible.”
Fowler is also looking for his first major championship, and he has been solid from the start. He’s only made seven bogeys over the first 54 holes on a tough golf course. He has several top 10s at majors, but he’s never had a better chance to win one.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Fowler. “I’m looking forward to it. This is by far the best I’ve felt in a major. It’s going to be a good time, and I think if pairings work out properly, it will be Jordan and I going out and having some fun.
“Just this week how I feel physically, mentally. From how my game feels, how I feel just about life; I feel great on the golf course. It feels like I’m right where I’m supposed to be. It doesn’t feel out of place.”
Spieth is another golfer who feels at home here. He has finished in the top two in three straight Masters and played in the final two pairings in four straight.
“Jordan Spieth is a huge threat to this tournament,” said Adam Scott, who is 3 under and just three strokes back. “Certainly one guy I’ll look at immediately tomorrow.”
Saturday was a fairly calm moving day at Augusta National. Rose’s 67 and Spieth’s 68 led the way among those at the top of the leaderboard. But what Saturday did is set us up for an all-time Sunday with four of the preeminent Ryder Cup golfers of the last few decades going toe-to-toe for the biggest prize in golf.
Rose, Spieth, Garcia and Fowler are used to the cauldron they’ll enter over the final four hours on Sunday afternoon, and one of them will have his life changed forever by what happens in that time and space. And with the final four separated by two strokes and 18 holes to the finish line, we have received the greatest gift in golf’s major championship season: None of us have any idea what is going to happen.
Here are nine other thoughts from Saturday at the Masters.
1. Ryan Moore is lurking: If you’re looking for the Danny Willett of 2017, it’s Moore. He shot a delectable 69 on Saturday (his second in a row) and is putting on a ball-striking show with just three bogeys in his last 42 holes. If the leaders buckle on Sunday, he should be there to capitalize. He actually has the lowest final round average of the guys at the top of the leaderboard.
2. Rory McIlroy could not get it going: I watched McIlroy obliterate drives at Nos. 1 and 13 and make par at both. He actually missed the green on No. 13, which was absurd after how far he hit it off the tee. The good news here is that we’re getting go-for-broke McIlroy early and often on Sunday which means everything from 63 to 83 could be in play.
“I need to play the round of my life tomorrow,” said McIlroy on Saturday night. Yes, he does.
3. Death, taxes and Lee Westwood: Westy shot a 68 on Saturday and sits T9 going into the final round. He’s been in the top 11 in six of the last seven years here, and I see no reason that number won’t go to seven of eight on Sunday afternoon.
4. No roars on Saturday: The third round was largely bereft of the usual weekend enthusiasm this place creates. Aside from the occasional yelp for Spieth or Justin Rose, it was tough going for the patrons. That was mostly because the course is getting hard and the putts are rolling forever with tucked pins. Sunday should be better, and we will have ourselves a righteous Masters.
5. Rickie Fowler is a scrambler: How well is Fowler scrambling this week? He’s hit just 57 percent of greens in regulation through three rounds. He’s gained four strokes with his putter on the rest of the field. Only one other golfer has even gained two. That’s either going to come back to bit him, or his ball-striking will finally catch up to where it normally exists, and he’ll run away and hide on Sunday afternoon.
“The big thing the first two days was go out there, be patient, take what the course was giving us ... ” said Fowler. “Did a good job of that. Today, I kind of made some good par saves to keep the round going.”
He’ll need a lot more on Sunday.
6. Age is a number: How good is this stat on Spieth? He is forging an historic path at a ridiculous age that not even Tiger Woods could match.
7. Never change, Phil Mickelson: The best scene I saw on Saturday while walking the course came at No. 14. Mickelson blew his drive way left. He had about 35 trees between himself and the green. One of the marshals on the course told everyone between him and the green to clear out so Mickelson could see the pin. Mickelson couldn’t have seen the pin with a 200-foot periscope. Everybody moved almost to the rope on the fairway at No. 15, and Mickelson somehow cut a shot through the trees onto the green. He made par. Mickelson forever.
8. We know the winner: It’s almost certain the winner will come from one of the final four golfers on Sunday, but if it doesn’t, then it will definitely come from this group of seven.
9. The winner will be Fowler: His short game is exquisite right now. His blood won’t boil down the stretch, and he will take a calm, cool run down the second nine on Sunday. A 35-34 for the one-stroke win.
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