AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hideki Matsuyama checks nearly all the boxes. He's an absolute flusher who is putting the lights out right now at the 2021 Masters. He was inside the top 10 after Round 1 (which has been the case in the last 16 Masters that Tiger Woods did not win), and he was within four of the lead going into Round 2 (which has been true of 82% of Masters winners in the last five decades).
In other words, Hideki Matsuyama is probably going to win the 2021 Masters.
The problem for the rest of the leaderboard is that even if Matsuyama (-11) matches his worst score of the week (71), it's going to take a 67 from one of the four players tied for second just to get into a playoff. There have only been seven total 67s or better all week. So it will likely require a borderline disaster from Matsuyama, something we are unlikely to see from a player of his caliber.
However, better players have blown bigger leads on Sunday at Augusta National, and there is a quartet of studs just behind Matsuyama ready to pick up the pieces if he's unable to touch off the first major championship of his career. Let's take a look at the golfers who can run him down on Sunday in the final round of the 2021 Masters.
1. Xander Schauffele (-7): He's going to be a problem on Sunday. Schauffele has kind of been up there sneaking around the board all week, and his scores have improved every day. The top three golfers in strokes gained tee to green this week are Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth and Schauffele -- in order -- and the latter loves to play from behind at small-field events like this one. I don't believe Matsuyama's hot putting will continue, and I think Schauffele gets a jacket from Dustin Johnson on Sunday evening.
2. Marc Leishman (-7): The Australian is a fascinating pick for Sunday's finale. He has a good history at Augusta National (three top-15 finishes in nine appearances), and he's hitting the ball really well (top five from tee to green thus far). I definitely trust him and Schauffele the most out of the players at 7 under, but he said on Saturday night that it will come down to getting hot with the putter.
"Just got to make the putts, give myself chances, and then it's important to make the putts," said Leishman. "Gave myself a lot of chances there after the rain delay and just wasn't making them. Those putts have to drop. You see whoever wins making putts, and it's as simple as that."
Interestingly, Leishman played ahead of the leaders with Adam Scott when Scott won the tournament in 2013. He'll play one pairing ahead of the leaders again this year as he tries to get his first major and Australia's second Masters.
3. Justin Rose (-7): The case for Rose is that we are at the point in the tournament where your past history at monster events can kind of take over. The case against him is that he only hit nine greens on Saturday and is in the throes of maybe the best putting week of his entire life. It's difficult to keep that up for four straight days, and I don't believe he will. However, the benefit of playing great golf early (Rose shot 65 in Round 1) is that you do not have to be absolutely perfect late in the tournament. There will be room for Rose to move around, but he will have to hit it better than he has over the last two days.
4. Will Zalatoris (-7): Speaking of great putting weeks, Zalatoris is on one, too. I absolutely love his game, and he showed off some touch on Saturday that made my knees weak. I watched an up and down on No. 3 for birdie that was an absolute joke, and that's not even the best part of his game. Long-term, I am all the way in, but I think the magic runs a little thin on Sunday.
5. Corey Conners (-6): Another flusher, another guy in contention. Conners was a circus on the first nine on Saturday as he made three birdies, a bogey and an ace. The second nine was less volatile, and I do not think he'll fade under the Sunday pressure. However, it's going to take an all-time putting round for him to fire the 66 he'll probably need to win, and Conners is not exactly known for his all-time putting rounds.
6. Jordan Spieth (-5): Spieth got Mutombo-ed all day on the greens on Saturday. He's leading the field in strokes gained from tee to green and cannot pour it in the Atlantic Ocean. It got so bad on Saturday that he went straight to the practice putting green after signing his card and grinded as the leaders finished up behind him.
Who would have ever thought Matsuyama would be boat racing Spieth at Augusta National because one of them could not miss a putt? So the two options for Spieth on Sunday are either that an all-time poor putting performance continues (he's currently bottom 10 in the field), or he starts hitting everything and gallops up the leaderboard like this is 2018 all over again. He's going to be fascinating, especially early.