Five things we learned from an exciting Masters Saturday

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 07: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland locates his ball in the flowers on the 13th hole during the third round of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Jamie Squires/Getty Images

Five things we learned from an exciting Masters Saturday

PGA Tour

Five things we learned from an exciting Masters Saturday

 

AUGUSTA, Ga. – A thrilling Saturday featuring three 65s and two back-nine eagles by Patrick Reed sets up for another dramatic final day at Augusta National. Here’s what we learned:

5. Patrick Reed will likely play first on most of the driving holes Sunday

Given the potential for a match-play-like scenario in the Reed-Rory McIlroy pairing, Reed will be hitting first on most of the holes. Had the two been playing together Saturday at Augusta National, Reed would have had the honor from the fairway on 11 of the 14 driving holes.

While Reed hit huge drives at 7 (331), 9 (359) and 11 (327), McIlroy will would have been longer (343, 374, 327 yards on those holes). There is a match-play school of thinking, however, that hitting first most of the day could allow Reed to force McIlroy’s hand.

In proximity to the hole, Reed ranks 31st this week at 41 feet, 6 inches to the 32nd-ranked McIlroy at 41 feet, 9 inches.

4. Augusta National played a lot better after the rain

With 12 rounds in the 80s on Friday and green speeds pushing the edge of sanity, Augusta National played better after some of the fire was extinguished by Saturday’s light rain and perhaps some committee intervention.  

“The fire was just taken out of the greens a little bit,”McIlroy said. “The greens were probably a foot slower than they were yesterday, and that made all the difference.”

Saturday at Augusta National went from 87 to 53 players but the scoring numbers reflected a much more forgiving and frankly, interesting course to watch.

The third-round scoring average of 71.264 included 173 birdies and eight eagles.

Friday’s second round with 34 more players averaged 74. 563, with 247 birdies and seven eagles. 

There were no rounds in the 80s Saturday, but there were six on Friday. 

And Friday’s field made 54 double bogeys, and four “others,” compared to Saturday’s 10 double bogeys and one other.

McIlroy said there is another explanation for the decrease in big numbers.

“The tough holes played easier, and I guess the gettable holes played a little tougher,” he said.

“The combination of wind direction and the course being a little soft; that’s why you’re seeing 65s and 66s.”

 3. Mother Nature was looking out for the Masters 

Just as Wednesday’s bleak forecast did not pan out, leading to a memorable Par 3 Contest, Saturday’s dreaded heavy rain and thunderstorms missed Augusta National. Radar watchers were gawking at the manner in which a shield seemed to deflect rains to the north and south of the course.  

After more overnight showers that could bring 0.10-0.20 inches of rain followed by some wind, Sunday’s forecast sounds positively perfect.

According to the official tournament forecast, mostly cloudy skies will likely linger through around daybreak Sunday morning with temperatures in the low to mid 40s. Mostly sunny skies and cool temperatures can be expected for the rest of the day on Sunday with highs in the mid 60s.

Sunset is at 7:52 pm ET. 

2. Rory is definitely a mudder

With his 65 in Saturday’s light rain, McIlroy is poised to close out the career grand slam if he can catch Reed on Sunday. In his previous major championship wins, each golf course has featured rain-softened conditions: 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, the 2012 PGA at Kiawah Island, 2014 Open Championship at Hoylake and the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla. 

1. Patrick Reed gets hot in stretches 

With his birdies at the eighth, ninth and 10th, Reed registered his fourth three-birdie stretch of the tournament. He eagled both back nine par-5s and with a final-round of 69 or better could become the first Masters champion to shoot all four rounds in the 60s. 

Reed admitted to being a leaderboard watcher and gaining confidence by seeing how well players were scoring ahead of him.

“The biggest thing is, because I was in the last tee time, I had the last holes to play that those guys were birdieing,” he said.  “I knew that I still had opportunities coming up and to not get ahead of myself try to push too hard and go out and play some good golf and stick to my game plan.”

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