The Masters: Stage set for thrilling final round

Golf News

It has been a fascinating and unpredictable 2014 Masters so far with many twists and turns to come. James Savage and Dan Murphy pick out the bones heading into the final round.

JS – The stage is set for a superb Masters Sunday. I think you can go right down to Jason Day on +2 before counting players out. There are so many potential stories. Bubba had a chance to run away with it but didn’t hole enough putts. Nothing against the American but I was hoping he’d drop a couple. Actually think he would be more dangerous from the pack rather than the front.

DM – Yes, it really could be any of 20 players. Butch Harmon said last night he thought the +2s had a chance. I woudn’t quite go that for but there are 15 players within five shots of the lead and Adam Scott is six back, so you can’t rule him out either at this stage. The only thing I would say about those, say, five back is that there’s a lot of traffic to go through. Surely one of the boys already under par will go low today? If you work on the basis that someone at -2 or better shoots a 67 then that realistically does rule out everyone behind them.

JS – I certainly would expect one of the players under par to put in a big final round which would put the Jason Days, Adam Scotts and out of it. But this tournament has been any thing but predictable so you just never know. As I said, I think Bubba will be dangerous. The attention has shifted more towards Jordan Spieth which should suit Bubba’s mental approach.

DM – It was a very strange round from Bubba. He was phenomenally good off the tee but really struggled with the putter. He really ought to have made two fours at worst on the par 5s on the back nine after his drives but walked off with a couple of pars. I wonder if he will live to regret the four or five shots he left out there. Then again, he will be much more comfortable trying to move forward again tonight rather than protecting a lead.

JS – It is hard to pick out a winner at this stage but I have to make Bubba favourite as he knows what is needed to win. No one else in the top 10 have got that Augusta experience to draw upon. Furyk, Couples and Rose are the only other Major winners right up there and it would take something special from any of those to win.

I would eliminate from my enquiries anyone whose short putting I thought was suspect DM – If I had to pick a winner from here it would be Kuchar. We all thought and expected he would contend this week but he really ought to claim his first Major tonight from this position – or at the least make himself the man to beat. He’s so steady and he’s been around long enough to cope with the unique demands of a Sunday afternoon at Augusta. I would eliminate from my enquiries anyone whose short putting I thought was suspect. It tends to find you out on the last day of the Masters. On that basis, I’m not convinced by the chances of Blixt, Jimenez, Fowler, Furyk or Bjorn. You’ll notice I haven’t put Westwood in that category. I’ve watched him closely this week and I would say he is holing out nicely. There’s a difference between not holing enough putts and missing short ones.

JS – Oh Dan, you can’t help yourself can you? How many times have we been here before with Westwood? Thinking maybe this time it’ll be different. Accept it, he won’t win… That’s what the logical side of my brain is telling me. My heart is telling me he’s got a chance. I can’t help myself either. 

DM – I give Westwood a chance tonight because he sounds like he is in quite a good place mentally and he is clearly playing exceptionally well. If I could give him one piece of advice, not that he needs it, it would be to keep plodding along at his own pace and see where it leaves him. He knows how to get round here and he knows where it’s rash to attack pins. He should trust that a flawless round of, say, 68 will slowly but surely lift him up the leaderboard and not worry about the inevitable eagles and birdie bursts that other, less steady, players will produce.

JS – I slightly disagree as I think Westwood suffered at the Open last year through the lack of a game plan. He wasn’t aggressive enough, it passed him by. You obviously need to wait for the right moments to attack at Augusta but you have to seize those moments when they arrive. Lee needs to draw on the experience from tournaments where he has taken it by the scruff of the neck. The Dubai World Championship in 2009 springs to mind where he was just too good for everyone else.  Can he be too good tonight?

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