If Masters Sunday can live up to anything near the standards set by Friday and Saturday, then it is set to be a fascinating finish. Here’s a rundown of some of the biggest storylines going into the final day of the year’s opening major…
1. Frankie says relax
It says something about Francesco Molinari these days that the Italian is so well fancied to add a Green Jacket to his Open win last July. He leads by two and he’s done it by only dropping a single shot all week, it came at the 11th on Thursday.
Cast your mind back to Carnoustie where he played the whole weekend without making a bogey and his closing 69 in Scotland came alongside Tiger Woods.
His first visit to Augusta came on his brother’s bag in 2006 after Edoardo won the US Amateur the previous year. Since then he has only broken 70 once in his first seven visits but the modern-day Molinari is something else and a character whose monotonous brilliance scares the life out of his peers.
With some gusts predicted for Sunday then some low-scoring challenges might not materialise as normal.
2. Something different for Masters Sunday finish
This will be quite weird – Sunday’s play will go off in threes, from two tees at 1 and 10 and the tee times have been pushed forward with the leaders going off at 9.20am – so add five hours for 2.20pm if you’re watching in the UK.
The leaders usually go off at 2.45pm in the final round.
The forecast is for some ‘severe weather’ – which means a biblical storm coming in later in the day – so the plan is to get everything done early to avoid a Monday finish.
“The safety of everyone on our grounds is paramount,” said Augusta’s chairman Fred Ridley. “We also believe the earlier start will give us the best opportunity to complete the Masters on Sunday.”
3. Is Finau ready for a big one?
You’ll read a lot about the 2016 Puerto Rico Open in the next 24 hours as this, to date, is Tony Finau’s sole PGA Tour win. Should you care he took down Steve Marino in a play-off.
So the quick conclusion is that he’s not ready for this type of top-table shindig, particularly given that he’s only played the Masters once before.
Then again his leg practically fell off, sort of, 12 months ago and he still finished T10, which was one of three major top 10s in 2018. Maybe he’s one of those big-time players who gets it all together when the stakes are raised. Yes, it’s matchplay but he was one of the few (two) Americans who loved the Ryder Cup, he smashed Tommy Fleetwood in the singles, and he hits the ball ridiculous distances. Did you see how far he got it down the 13th?
4. How do you follow a low one?
One of the problems that Finau might have to face is how to follow a low round? In his and Webb Simpson’s case they’ve just shot 64s where a lot of things have gone right, a lot of putts have dropped and you’ve just had your lowest score in a major with Sunday to come.
For a multitude of reasons it rarely happens on successive days, particularly on golf’s biggest stage and over the weekend.
5. Will Scott raise his trouser game?
There is the prospect that we might get to see the major champion hole the winning putt with the flagstick in and, should Adam Scott get the job done, this is a certainty.
It’s going to happen at some point so why not here where the men in coats would absolutely detest it.
More worrying are the pleated trousers that Scotty’s been sporting this week which have been more David Duval than his usual stylish ‘pants’.
Still, those eyes…
6. Tiger, Tiger burning bright
Everything about Tiger here is different, particularly the cheers. They don’t seem to be borne out of sympathy or affection but more out of how out of this world a Woods win might be.
This is the third straight major that we’ve watched him contend so why would it come as any surprise? Coming into this week there were mumblings about his putting. So far this week he’s amassed 16 birdies and his scores have come down with each round.
Even more curious than the 2008 stat about his last major W is that we have to go back to 2005 and THAT chip for his fourth and most recent Green Jacket.
After watching the last three days there really is no reason to doubt him. So far he’s had just five bogeys, which is one less than Rory on the first day alone, and three of those have come at the lengthened 5th hole.
Will it be the day of days or another near miss?
7. Hitting BOMBS
Perceived wisdom is that the Masters champion comes from the final group which, in this instance, will be a threeball.
Jack Burke Jr holds the record for the biggest comeback, having trailed amateur Ken Venturi by eight in 1956. Otherwise Nick Faldo did what he did to Greg Norman when six adrift in 1996.
Phil Mickelson, bidding to become the oldest Masters champion at 48, will start the final day seven behind.
Whatever happens at least we know he’ll be giving it a proper go…
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) April 13, 2019
8. What of the gunslingers?
The ominous sight of Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka reappearing on the first page of the leaderboard makes you wonder if there’s a big one from one if not both of them.
Johnson will have to do it from 8-under while Koepka, who appears to have been out of sorts for much of this week, will start two shots better.
After day one Koepka was handed the jacket by one or two. Maybe, with his new physique, he’s run out of stamina? Joke, Brooks.
9. Poulter still delivering
I’ve run out of superlatives to say about old Postie. He’s now, like Woods, 43 and, like Woods, he’s also been written off as a bit of a busted flush in recent years.
Remember last year when he was the final entrant in the field, having won in Houston? He doesn’t hit it as well as the rest of them and he’s not as easy on the eye but the wow factor comes in how well he just digs in and gets to work. In my head he’s the most remarkable golfer on the planet for a load of good reasons.
For all the chat of the Woods fairytale ending this would also be something else.
10. Spieth digs deep
A final word to Jordan Spieth whose record here is 2-W-2-11-3. After day one he looked to be going home and he was almost unrecognisable from the player who nearly did the Grand Slam four years ago and was the golden child of American golf.
These days he seems some distance off anything positive, let alone winning again, so to bounce back from going out in 40 on Thursday to get to 4-under with a day to go deserves plenty of credit.