Anyway, with everyone off to take shelter – and the leader Rose safely on the 7th green in two, while Zalatoris finds himself in a bunker to the right – this is how the top of the leader board looks …
-7: Rose (6)
-6: Zalatoris (6)
-5: Conners (12), Matsuyama (10), Thomas (8), Leishman (7)
-4: Schauffele (10), Spieth (8), Wiesberger (8), Harman (7)
-3: Kim (9), Finau (8)
-2:Jones (12), Champ (9)
-1: Reed (F), Na (F), Stenson (16), Lowry (14), Hughes (14), MacIntyre (14), Cink (13), Palmer (11)
E: Mickelson (F), Molinari (F), Simpson (F), Niemann (F), Scheffler (F), Rahm (F), Hovland (13)
That weather warning came out of nowhere. The satellite pictures suggest a lot of rain may be on the cards, but hopefully not a great deal in the way of electrical excitement … and there doesn’t appear to be anything looming behind it. So fingers crossed that it’ll pass through quickly. Given the increasing difficulty of the course as the wind got up, you’d imagine plenty of the players will welcome a good drenching to slow the greens down a bit.
Bad weather stops play
Up on 8, Spieth, badly out of position down the left of the hole, manufactures an absurd escape from the bushes, using the bank behind the cup to bring his ball to four feet. A sensational birdie … and not a bad way to go into an enforced weather break. Storm’s a-comin’ through, and the klaxon goes.
Bob MacIntyre, the latest great Scottish hope, looks the real deal. He’s making his Masters debut and showing the sort of moxie he’ll need to succeed around here one day. A lovely long iron into 14, using the camber at the back to bring the ball back towards the hole, sets up birdie. He’s-1.
It’s getting tough out there. A staunch up and down from the bottom of the bank at the front of 10 saves Hideki Matsuyama’s par, but Marc Leishman can’t make a sand save from a deep bunker at 7. Both folks are -5.
“That’s so far into Narnia!” DeChambeau, working a few things out after his double at 12, blooters his drive at 13 into a gaggle of patrons down the right. That might be in Mickelson Country, the pine straw from which Lefty stuck a dagger through Lee Westwood’s heart in 2010. Or it could be even wilder. Either way, the next shot is likely to be entertaining.
A decent two-putt par from the front of 6 settles the good ship Rose. He remains at -7, one ahead of Zalatoris, who also pars. Meanwhile Thomas misses two highly decent birdie putts in a row, on 7 and now 8, and exits the green in a minor funk.
DeChambeau ends up with a double on 12. He’s back to +3, and any slim hopes of a sensational comeback must surely be kaput. Mind you, the breeze continues to pick up, and the leading pack, with many more holes to play this afternoon, won’t fancy these conditions at all.
Yep, Augusta is beginning to act up. DeChambeau chunks his tee shot at 12 into Rae’s Creek, the latest superstar to come a cropper at this most treacherous of short par-threes. He’d been busy repairing his round with birdies at 8 and 11, but there goes that momentum! He’s +1 right now but not for very much longer. Meanwhile back on 7, Spieth gets a flyer approaching the green, and sends his ball over the patrons at the back. His delicate chip dunks in the sand, and the splash out runs 20 feet past. He doesn’t hit his bogey putt and, chasing after it immediately in the style of Kevin Na, nearly taps his moving ball. Fortunately he catches himself just in time, waits, and tidies up for double. He’s -3, and a wee bit hot under the collar, uncharacteristically so.
Another bogey for Rose, who splashes gently out of the bunker at the back of 5, yet still faces a 15-footer coming back. He can’t make it. A two-putt par for Zalatoris.
-7: Rose (5)
-6: Leishman (6), Zalatoris (5)
-5: Conners (10), Matsuyama (9), Thomas (7), Spieth (6)
Some bad luck for Conners on 10. He lands his approach pin high, but the ball topples slowly back off the false front, and he can only chip back up to nine feet. The downhill tickler stays up, and that’s a bogey that drops him to -5.
Some more bother for Rose, whose second into 5 bounds through the green and into the sand at the back. He shakes his head sadly. His partner Zalatoris finds the centre of the green in regulation. There’s an air of the young Bernhard Langers about Zalatoris, and he’s got the calm, controlled game to match.
For the record, the current clubhouse leader is the 2018 champion Patrick Reed. He shot a commendable 70 today, though he’ll be irritated after missing a short par putt on the last. Even so, he’s in at -1. That’s almost certainly too far back, unless conditions worsen to the point of carnage this afternoon, and/or the same dynamic applies tomorrow. A lot of ifs for Reed there, to be fair.
Two poor tee shots from Rose and Zalatoris at the par-three 4th, and suddenly the leaders come back towards the chasing pack. As the wind picks up a little, and the greens dry out, becoming less responsive, it’s notable that the early blitz of birdies has calmed somewhat. A sense that Augusta is preparing to bear its teeth.
-8: Rose (4)
-6: Conners (9), Leishman (4), Zalatoris (4)
-5: Matsuyama (8), Thomas (6), Spieth (5)
Bernd Wiesberger traverses the par-four 6th like the Keystone Kops in a Ford Model T. His drive finds the trees on the right, necessitating a hack-out. His third flies into more bushes down the same side of the hole. His fourth is a chip that flies through the green and down a swale on the other side. His fifth is a hysterical lob that would have bounded through the green again had it not twanged the flagstick. And his sixth? A 20-foot drain for double bogey. He’s so lucky to have limited the damage to just two shots there, but nevertheless he crashes down the leaderboard to -3.
Connors sends his birdie putt across 9 dead on line, but gives it a little too much juice, and it lips out on the left. Still, that’s a par, and he’s turning in 32, three of the lead at -6. Brian Harman heads in the wrong direction, though, with bogeys at 3 and 4; he’s suddenly toppled down to -4. Yet another illustration of how easy it is to quickly fall off the pace at the Masters.
Kim’s putter will live to see another hole at least, as the young Korean rolls in a left-to-right curler on 6. He returns to -3. Thomas slips back to -5 after a 15-footer refuses to drop on 5. Matsuyama makes his first birdie of the day at 7 to make it to -5. Zalatoris rolls in his first birdie putt, from 12 feet at 3. And it’s two putts for Rose for his par; his lead is now just two.
-9: Rose (3)
-7: Zalatoris (3)
-6: Conners (8), Leishman (3)
Bogey for Spieth at 4, the result of finding the sand guarding the front right of the par-three, and a splash that went 15 feet past. He slips back to -5. Back on 3, Rose sets up another birdie opportunity, albeit a slippery one downhill from 15 feet. And up on 9, Connors sticks his second pin high and will have a good look at birdie. If he makes it, he’ll be turning in 31.
If Justin Rose doesn’t feel excited already, here’s another reason to get the juices flowing: five of the last seven winners at Augusta have either led or jointly led after 36 holes. So statistically, this is looking very good for the 2013 US Open champion … but of course this is golf, and there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip, especially with a sweaty grip. You can be sure Rose – who has led or co-led seven rounds here, a record for a player never to have won a green jacket – won’t be making any assumptions at all.
It’s a perfect start for the leader Justin Rose. He leaves his second at the 2nd just short of the green, chips up to ten feet, leaving himself a straight uphill putt, and makes birdie number two. His partner Will Zalatoris, who did well to get up and down at 1 after finding trouble from the tee, chips poorly and has to settle for a par-par start. It’s looking good for Hampshire’s finest!
-9: Rose (2)
-6: Conners (7), Thomas (4), Spieth (3), Harman (2), Leishman (2), Zalatoris (2)
-5: Wiesberger (3)
-4: Matsuyama (6), Schauffele (6), Finau (4)
-3: Champ (5)
-2: Reed (17), Jones (8), Kim (5)
Jordan Spieth knocks his second at 3 to five feet, but he’s left with a slippery downhill putt. He prods it as carefully as he can, but it still lips out. A par that will feel like a bogey, if the dismayed look on his face is anything to go by. Meanwhile Brian Harman rights the wrongs of the 1st with birdie at 2, while his playing partner Marc Leishman also birdies. A six-strong group in second place at -6 now.
Bryson DeChambeau did so well to haul himself back into semi-contention yesterday, responding to his miserable opening-day 76 with a fine battling 67. He’s all over the shop again today, though, a heavy-handed chip leading to a double-bogey five on the par-three 4th, bogeys at 5 and 7 following soon after. He’s +3 and Bernhard Langer’s pre-tournament observation that, while power is all good and well, it means absolutely nothing if you don’t know which spots to pick around Augusta … and more importantly, the best places to miss. Don’t worry, though, Bryson’s got an analytical mind, he’ll surely work it all out soon enough.
Yep, this is going to be quite the ride. Thomas doesn’t go particularly close with his chip into the short par-three 3rd, but he rattles in the 12-footer that remains and he joins his good pal Spieth in a share of second. And in the blink of an eye Conners follows his ace at 6 with a long rake for birdie at 7, and he’s up to -6 as well.
-8: Rose (1)
-6: Conners (7), Thomas (3), Spieth (2), Zalatoris (1)
Rose makes his opening birdie putt! In it goes, and already this is looking like being one of those Moving Days. Strap in, people!
-8: Rose (1)
-6: Spieth (2), Zalatoris (1)
-5: Conners (6), Schauffele (4), Champ (3), Thomas (2), Wiesberger (2), Harman (1), Leishman (1)
-4: Matsuyama (4)
-3: Finau (2)
-2: Kim (3)
Birdie for Xander Schauffele at the par-three 4th. A long iron sent to eight feet, the putt rolled in. He joins an ever-growing group at -5, Cameron Champ making birdie at 3, Bernd Wiesberger picking up a shot at 2, Brian Harman dropping one at the opening hole. Much movement at the top, because Jordan Spieth birdies 2 as well, and moves into second spot, ominously so. Just as well that Justin Rose’s second at 1 finds the heart of the green, and he’ll have a look at birdie from 15 feet to reestablish a two-shot cushion between himself and the 2015 champion.
The final group take to the first tee. The leader Justin Rose crashes his drive down the middle, but Will Zalatoris lets out a curdled yelp as his opening shot whistles into trouble down the right. Rose and the young man from Texas – if only one of them was wearing yellow, we could probably get something going – have both been distinctly average on the front nine this week, and exceptional after the turn. It’ll be interesting to see if either manage to buck that trend today.
That was the first ace on 6 since Jamie Donaldson made one in the first round in 2013, and only the sixth there in the entire history of the Masters! What a moment for Conners, who really has thrown down the gauntlet with today’s fast start. He’s joined at -5 by Justin Thomas, the new Players champion having just picked up a stroke at the par-five 2nd.
-6: Zalatoris, Harman
-5: Conners (6), Thomas (2), Spieth (1), Leishman
Hole-in-one for Corey Conners!
An iron straight at the flag. Four bounces, each one smaller than the other, and then his ball rolls serenely into the cup for the second ace of the week! The patrons around him erupt! Conners tied for tenth last November, came third at the Arnold Palmer, then seventh at the Players, and finished strongly at the Texas Open last week. He’s gaining some serious momentum … and is making a serious bid for the green jacket here. He’s got the game. He’s now -5.
A nice steady opening par for Jordan Spieth. He’s going round today with Bernd Wiesberger, who also pars. They’re -5 and -4 respectively. An eventful bogey-birdie start to Cameron Champ, who has the sort of controlled no-effort long game to do some serious damage around here. He’s -4. And a bogey for Corey Connors on 5 takes the Canadian back to -3, but no matter, because …
Kim Si-woo has a new putter, after his shaft-bothering antics on 15 yesterday. With great narrative inevitability, he’s just used it to three-putt the 1st; perhaps he should get the trusty 3-wood out again, it did him no harm over the closing four post-tantrum holes yesterday, after all. Or maybe he should start taking putter off the tee, because on 2 he flays his drive into the azaleas down the left, and that’s a bogey-bogey start for the 2017 Players champion. Quick as a flash, he slips down the leader board to -2.
Phil Mickelson was all over the shop on Thursday as he shot 75, and not totally in control yesterday either, grinding out a level-par round of 72. But he’s been uncharacteristically steady today: four birdies, a single bogey, and nine pars in his last ten holes en route to a fine 69. The 50-year-old Californian won’t be breaking Jack Nicklaus’s record as oldest Master – the Golden Bear was 46 when he won in 1986 – but he’s ended the day at level par and yet another decent late-career finish here looks on the cards. In any case, if Lefty’s ever going to write a fiftysomething fairytale, we want him to do it at a US Open, right?
Henrik Stenson hasn’t got the greatest record at Augusta. A tie for fifth in 2018 is the outlier in a smattering of top-20 finishes and a few missed cuts. He didn’t make the weekend back in November, but evaded the cut easily enough this week after rounds of 73 and 71. The 2016 Open champ is trending in the right direction: birdies at 6 and now 8 have hauled the veteran Swede up to -2.
And with that, Tom takes his leave; thanks Tom. Conners looks a decent bet to become only the second Canadian to win the Masters, after Mike Weir’s breakthrough for lefties back in 2003. No better time to whack up the latest leader board, then …
-6: Zalatoris, Harman
-5: Leishman, Spieth
-4: Conners (4), Matsuyama (1), Wiesberger, Finau, Thomas
-3: Schauffele (1), Kim (1), Champ (1)
Here we go Corey Conners! Nope, me neither. The Canadian finished T10 back in November to earn his spot this year and is now four under through three. He set that up with cracking drive at the par-five second and despite finding sand from the fairway managed a birdie. He could not have played the third much better, holing a 24 foot putt for a birdie three.
Hideki Matsuyama, who tees off just three shots off the lead, is in danger of dropping a shot at the first. His second leaves him short of the green on the fairway but his iron into the green flies the pin and takes perfect spin back to leave him with a putt of no more than five or six feet. Par saved!
Bryson DeChambeau is on the third, a 350 yard par four, but having only found the trees with his tee shot what could be an eagle chance for him looks like a scramble to make par. He has made a nice chip from just off the green though, that should be good enough to make his four… and it is.