Masters Tournament Updates: Everyone Chasing Matsuyama in Final Round
If Hideki Matsuyama can hold onto his advantage at Augusta National, he will become the tournament’s first Asian-born winner.,
See you next spring, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
The Masters Tournament field, which Hideki Matsuyama still tops at this hour at 11 under par for the week, is zipping through the course as Augusta National Golf Club approaches the crowning of a champion.
Matsuyama opened the day at 11 under, but bogeyed the first hole before recovering well on the second, where he made birdie. Now Will Zalatoris has narrowed his lead to a mere three strokes, and Marc Leishman trailed him by five strokes.
The player having the biggest day, though, falls just below them on the leaderboard. Through 14 holes, Jon Rahm is five under on the day, which has vaulted him from a tie for 21st at sunrise to a tie for fourth now. Rahm’s biggest moment came on the second hole, where he made eagle just after he carded a birdie on No. 1.
The good news for Matsuyama, besides leading the Masters on Sunday, is that he has made it past the course’s most difficult hole. Just a few moments ago, he made par on No. 5. Xander Schauffele, paired with Matsuyama for the round, had a disaster: double-bogey. He trails his partner by seven strokes.
Corey Conners did not extend his good fortune at No. 6, where he had a hole in one on Saturday. Playing the par-3 in the final round, his tee shot sailed over the green and a putt just barely stayed out of the cup. He’s at five under par and tied for fifth.
The fifth hole at Augusta National was not always so miserable. Then, ahead of the 2019 tournament, the club added 40 yards and made it the toughest on the course.
It is still not a happy place.
Although players have said they were adjusting to the new rigors, the field scored a cumulative 103 over par on the par-4 hole across the first three rounds — the handiwork of 84 bogeys, nine double-bogeys and just five birdies. (The easiest hole, in case you’re wondering, has been No. 8, with Nos. 6 and 9 roughly in the middle.)
Escaping the two bunkers before the pin requires 315 of the hole’s 495 yards, and then there is another just beyond the green, which slopes from the back to the front.
Gary Player, a three-time Masters winner, said in an interview last year that with such a hole design in his day, he would have had to use a driver and probably a 5-wood. Then again, he said, today’s players can afford to approach the game differently.
“The ball goes 50 yards further, and the metal heads hit it so much further, and the fairways run more,” he said. “We never had the conditioned fairways, we never had the metal heads, we never had a ball that goes 50 yards further and curves less.”
All of that notwithstanding, the hole has, to put it politely, driven the field bonkers this year. Even Hideki Matsuyama, who entered Sunday’s final round at 11 under par, bogeyed the hole.
One thing that struck me these past few days about Will Zalatoris, who is in second place at eight under par, was his absolute confidence despite this being his first Masters. But his joy was quite something, too: “You’ll see me every single time when I’m on 12, kind of looking back when we cross the bridge and just kind of looking back on Amen Corner. Enjoy it. I’ve been wanting to do this my entire career, and I put myself in a pretty good spot.” His bogey on No. 3 today is a certain disappointment, but he has narrowed Hideki Matsuyama’s lead to three strokes.
Bubba Watson’s exceptional tee shot on No. 16 will set up well for birdie. Tied for 23rd when he arrived at the hole, the two-time Masters winner is poised to recover well from his showing in 2020, when he came in 57th. But chatting with reporters last week, he talked about, of all things, his Augusta National breakfast order: “two scrambled eggs, two pieces of bacon, two biscuits and hash browns.” An impish fan who was listening from afar called out that Watson might win his third green jacket if he upped something on his order to — you guessed it — three.
The five players in first or second place entering Sunday’s fourth round of the Masters have remarkably similar final-round score averages in their previous appearances at the tournament. For Hideki Matsuyama, the third-round leader playing in his 10th Masters, his fourth-round average score has been 71.63. The next highest is Justin Rose, who is four strokes behind Matsuyama. Rose’s final-round average in 15 previous Masters is 71.43.
Marc Leishman, tied with Rose, has the third highest average final day score (71.2). Leishman is playing in his ninth Masters tournament. Xander Schauffele has teed it up in the fourth round of the Masters three previous times and averaged a one-under-par 71.
Will Zalatoris, also tied for second place, is a Masters rookie and has never played on the fourth day of the tournament. Zalatoris is also trying to become the first Masters rookie since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 to win the tournament.
Zalatoris cut Matsuyama’s lead to one with birdies on the first two holes, but bogeyed No. 3, and after the bogey on No. 1 Matsuyama got back to a three-stroke lead with a birdie on No. 2. Xander Schauffele pulled into a tie with Zalatoris at eight under.
Matsuyama, who started the day with a four-stroke lead at 11 under par, struggled on his opening drive, sending his ball off to the right and into the trees. He bogeyed the first hole, and his lead has been cut to one with Will Zalatoris gaining.
One of the perks of winning the Masters, besides the green jacket and an instant etching into history, is a lifetime invitation to play the tournament.
Seven past winners survived the cut this year: Phil Mickelson, Jose Maria Olazabal, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson. But even more didn’t, including Dustin Johnson, who won last year with a tournament-record 20 under par but this time around three-putted six holes.
So why do they come back? In Johnson’s case, of course, it is because he is still in the prime of his career. But consider, say, Fred Couples, who won the 1992 tournament and has placed no higher than third in a major since 2005.
“It’s not a competition for me,” Couples said last week, before he missed the Masters cut for the third consecutive tournament. “The competition is for myself to play the course the best I can, and when that becomes havoc, then I will have probably played my last Masters.”
Besides, playing or not, most past winners come back to Augusta each year for the closed-door dinner for the champions and the club chairman. The 2021 menu, which Johnson selected and paid for, included pigs-in-a-blanket, filet mignon and peach cobbler.
But for players who are young enough, the hope of another title lurks. Mickelson, who had a three-under 69 on Saturday to move to even for the tournament, thought he could still contend on Sunday — maybe.
“You want that opportunity to do what Nicklaus did in ’86 and shoot 65 and have a chance,” he said after his third round. “I don’t know if that will be good enough, but I’m having a lot of fun.”
When I played Augusta National the day after Tiger Woods’s 2019 victory, I made a par at the treacherous, pivotal par-3 12th hole. At about 6 p.m. tonight, I could sell that par to one of the leaders for a princely sum.
Billy Horschel just made it through No. 13 without slipping down a slope.
This counts as something of an achievement — even if, for the second consecutive day, he needed to remove his socks and shoes to make it through the hole.
Let’s back up. Horschel’s second shot on Saturday landed in Rae’s Creek, one of the dangers of the par-5 hole. So Horschel’s socks and shoes came off as he prepared to try a shot from the water. But after he surveyed the green before his attempt, he lost his footing and slid down the hill, prompting a consultation with Phil Mickelson, the three-time Masters winner who was his partner for the day, and later blamed the steepness of the bank and the wetness of the rye.
“I said, ‘How bad is that grass stain going to be?'” Horschel, who was sporting white pants, recounted after the round. “And he said, ‘There may not be one there,’ and he looked and said, ‘Yeah, there’s one there. Sorry, buddy.'” (Asked whether he had faced a more embarrassing moment, he replied: “I’ve ripped my pants a few times — and early in the rounds.”)
The shot went much better.
“It was probably a couple inches under the water,” Horschel said, adding, “I knew there was a whole bunch of green behind me, so as long as I hit it hard enough, it would come out.”
It did, lifting up onto the green and past the pin to set up a two-putt, and Horschel ultimately made par.
“It was an incredible golf shot,” Mickelson said later. “That’s not easy. Sometimes that thing comes out kind of blah. I’m curious how he hit that.”
Then came Sunday, when Horschel’s tee shot landed in the water.
Much as Horschel fans might hope, we are not making this up.
Off came the footwear.
His recovery shot managed to leave the water but headed straight into a rock-strewn slope. His third shot went a few inches. At last cutting his losses, he took a drop, only to see what was technically his fifth stroke wind up in the gallery. Horschel’s sixth put him onto the green, where he putted well.
But it was very much a miserable showing on the hole: eight strokes — good for a triple-bogey that moved him to six over par for the tournament. At least, though, he did not rip his pants.
The atmosphere as the first eight or 10 pairings of golfers tee off in the final round of the Masters is always a bit peculiar. The competitors are, in theory, vying for the tournament title, but in reality they are too far behind to have a shot and most are trying play quickly (and well) so they can be done in time to watch the real show when the tournament leaders tee off at about 2:40 p.m. Eastern time.
Usually, there are about 40,000 fans on the Augusta National Golf Club grounds to watch the first groups play and the crowd is excited for the final round to start, which gives even mundane shots by players in 49th place some import.
But at this year’s Masters, there are probably fewer than 10,000 fans allowed on the property, which makes traffic to the golf course a breeze. That has meant that the early crowds for the final round have been thin.
The early groups of players are making their way around Augusta National with a following that more closely resembles the last day of a local club championship than the most celebrated golf tournament in the world. At noon today, as Bryson DeChambeau walked to the fifth green, a couple spectators were having a conversation with him from 40 yards away — and both parties had no trouble hearing each other.
Only at the 2021 Masters.
Two players making their debuts at the Masters are in the top 10. Get excited — but not too excited.
Will Zalatoris, who is seven under par for the tournament, finished Saturday’s round in a tie for second. He tees off at 2:20 p.m. Eastern time. And Robert MacIntyre, at two under and teeing off at 2 p.m., was among those standing in 10th place on Sunday morning. If either of them can prevail, a mighty ask given that Hideki Matsuyama is at 11 under, the Masters will have a first-time player as its champion, ending a drought that has lasted since Fuzzy Zoeller managed the feat in 1979.
“I’m here because I got here on merit, and I’m here to win a golf tournament,” MacIntyre, a 24-year-old player from Scotland who qualified for the Masters because of his world ranking. “If I wasn’t trying to win this golf tournament, I’d be sitting at home with my feet up watching it. I’ve prepared for the last two years or the last year, my goal was top 50 in order to get in this golf tournament because I love watching it so much. I’m here now, and I’m trying to win it.”
Newcomers have made serious runs toward the green jacket in the past. Just in November, for instance, Sungjae Im placed second in the tournament, and C.T. Pan finished in a tie for seventh. Abraham Ancer, who entered the final round tied with Im for the runner-up slot, was one of the 13th place finishers.
But Zoeller is the only modern exception to the seeming rule that newcomers must fade on a course that rewards experience. Just two other men have won the Masters in their debuts: Horton Smith in 1934, when Augusta National first held the tournament, and Gene Sarazen followed him in 1935.
Zalatoris acknowledged that the course could be intimidating. But, he said, “The fact that I wanted to be here my entire life actually almost frees me up.”
Let’s run through the assessments of the greens — besides the customary diagnosis of “fast and firm” — that we’ve heard over the last week around Augusta National.
“Fiery,” Adam Scott declared. “Very different from the ones in November,” said C.T. Pan. “Pure,” Kevin Kisner said.
“If it stays dry, it’ll be as difficult as the course has played in a long, long time, and that’s what I think we need to have,” Fred Couples said early in the week.
Couples, the 1992 champion, largely got his wish. But now it has rained — a quick system that forced a delay during the third round on Saturday. (Hideki Matsuyama spent the time, he said, in his car playing games on his cellphone. He finished the day at 11 under par on the week, so maybe there is a lesson there.)
Virtually no one is expecting the greens to be anywhere near as soft as they were in November, when Dustin Johnson won the tournament with a record 20 under. The greens, though, might be just a little less glass-like, perhaps inviting fewer debacles like Bernd Wiesberger’s eagle putt on No. 15 that rolled all the way into the water.
Players have spent the tournament both talking about the perils of the greens and celebrating them.
“It’s set up perfect to identify kind of the best player, and the guys that are striking it well are up on the leaderboard, the guys that are putting it well,” Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters winner, said on Saturday. “And I think it’s very fair because we’re making divots, the balls are stopping. It’s not like the ’90s where we weren’t, but you have to have quality shots. You’ve got to hit angles into the pins. You’ve got to be smart.”
Mickelson, who had suggested just days earlier that Augusta National’s greens had been too forgiving in recent years, declared the course “perfectly done.”
“It punishes you — like it did me the first couple of days — when you make mistakes or don’t put it in the right spot or hit poor chips,” he said. “I love seeing it like this because you can score low, but you also need to respect it.”
When the 2020 Masters, delayed by coronavirus pandemic, was played last November, the course was not in its usual springtime shape, as Bill Pennington and Alan Blinder reported. The golfers ran amok, and Dustin Johnson won with a score of 20 under par, the largest margin of victory in the history of the tournament, with 43 players finishing under par.
What a difference a season makes. Here’s what happened in the first three rounds this week:
On Thursday, the course had its way with the field, with only 11 golfers finishing under par. Justin Rose was an outlier, shooting a seven-under-par 65, and led after the first round. Only Rose, Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama shot below 70.
On Friday, the fan favorite Jordan Spieth, who has been waging a steady comeback and won his first tournament since 2017 the previous week at the Texas Valero Open, turned in an excellent round, a four-under-par 68. He was just two strokes behind Rose, the second-round leader. In a bit of a shock, Johnson, the defending champion, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy all failed to make the cut.
A 78-minute rain delay set up a remarkable run up the leaderboard by Matsuyama. The 29-year-old Japanese star shot 65 to enter Sunday’s final round 11 under par. Four golfers were tied for second: Rose, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and the Masters rookie Will Zalatoris.
Coverage of the Masters Tournament is split across a number of television networks, streaming platforms and websites, making it confusing to understand how to watch. The good news is that there are a number of viewing options, some of them free, for golf fans.
Here is how you can catch Sunday’s final round.
The main action
The traditional television coverage of the tournament’s final round, which will culminate with somebody donning a green jacket, can be seen on CBS from 2 to 7 p.m. Eastern time. That coverage will be simulcast in the CBS Sports app and on the Paramount+ streaming service.
Groups begin teeing off in the morning, however, and you can start watching the Masters with your coffee. On the Masters livestream there are four different “channels” to watch:
Holes 15 and 16
Holes 4, 5 and 6
These options all begin and end at different times, depending on when the first golfers reach the different holes, but the featured groups channel kicks things off at 10:25 a.m. Eastern. The featured groups are Paul Casey and Billy Horschel (10:30 a.m.), Bryson DeChambeau and Harris English (11 a.m.), Justin Spieth and Brian Harman (2:10 p.m.) and Justin Rose and Marc Leishman (2:30 p.m.).
You can watch the Masters livestream in a number of different places. ESPN+, Paramount+, the CBS Sports app, CBSSports.com and Masters.com all carry it.
If you are more interested in analysis from talking heads and footage of golfers practicing before their tee times, the Golf Channel is live from the Masters both before and after the main coverage on CBS. If you miss the final round, encore coverage begins almost immediately, at 8 p.m. Eastern on the CBS Sports Network.
The Masters Tournament is one of the South’s grandest spring traditions. Doug Mills, a New York Times staff photographer, has been capturing the atmosphere all week: