Contenders: A look at some players with a chance to slip on Green Jacket
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The good news for Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera is that only three times in the last 22 years has the Masters winner come from somewhere other than the final pairing on Sunday.
Of course two of those occasions have come in the last two years -- Bubba Watson in 2012 and Charl Schwartzel in 2011.
But really, if you want to know who will be slipping on the Green Jacket come Sunday night, you needn’t look very far down the leaderboard.
Since 1991, the Masters champion has been outside second place going into the final round just twice -- Zach Johnson, who was tied for fourth in 2007, and Watson, who was tied for third last year.
The third-round leader or co-leader has also gone on to win here 41 of 76 times. The last guy to do it? Cabrera in 2009.
The only Masters champion who was not inside the top 10 entering the final round was Art Wall Jr. in 1959.
But just for the dreamers out there, the largest comeback after 54 holes at the Masters was eight shots by Jack Burke in 1956. He shot 71 to beat Ken Venturi, who shot 80.
With all that info overloading your brain, here’s a look at the contenders and who might buck the trend as we enter the final round of the 77th Masters:
Adam Scott (6 under): He’s knocked on the door plenty of times before, including at last year’s British Open, where he led by four with four holes to play before suffering one of golf’s most epic collapses with four straight bogeys to hand the trophy to Ernie Els. The Aussie also had the lead on the 71st hole of the 2011 Masters before Schwartzel blitzed the final four holes with four consecutive birdies. That’s a lot of scar tissue, yes, but it’s also a learning experience. Scott also played well at Augusta last year, tying for eighth. He’s got one other thing working for him: The long putter. Players who use the long putter have won three of the last five majors.
Marc Leishman (5 under): No Aussie has ever won the Masters, a drought they are all very well aware of. Moreover, Leishman has only won once in his career on the PGA TOUR, at the 2012 Travelers Championship, where he posted a final-round 62, then sat around for a couple of hours and watched as everyone else messed up. He’s also been just OK since his opening round here. Since shooting 66 to take the lead in the first round, he’s failed to break par with rounds of 73-72 the last two days.
Jason Day (5 under): Two years ago, Day was right there with Scott at Augusta National watching as Schwartzel swept in to swipe the Green Jacket from everyone. Day tied for second, and he followed that with another runner-up two months later at the U.S. Open at Congressional. After a drop-off last year, Day has been good this year with three top 10s in eight starts on TOUR. He also reached the semifinals of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. In other words, there’s no reason to think Day, despite two straight bogeys to end his round Saturday, can’t win.
Matt Kuchar (4 under): The only thing missing from the resume is a major championship for the reigning PLAYERS champion, who has four wins and a truckload of top 10s the last four years. Kuchar’s career has been all about a steady progression and the 34-year-old seems poised to win a major any day. Remember, Kuchar also finished third here a year ago, and he was actually tied for the lead on the back nine on Sunday before making bogey on the par-3 16th and finishing two strokes out of the playoff between Watson and Louis Oosthuzien.
Tim Clark (3 under): At the start of the third round, the diminutive South African was 2 over. By the end of the day, however, he was within four of the lead thanks to a 67 that included five birdies in a six-hole stretch and a front-nine 31. Another long putter user, Clark certainly had it working on Saturday. Can he keep it up is the question? He doesn’t have a great track record at Augusta National with missed cuts each of the last three years, but before that he can dig into the memory bank to recall three finishes in the top 13 in four years, including a runner-up in 2006.
Tiger Woods (3 under): We all know the stat by now. Woods has never won a major trailing after three rounds, and four strokes is no small deficit to make up at Augusta National. But he’s put on some memorable runs here in the past, including in many of the last seven years when he’s finished outside the top 6 just once. He’s also won three times in four stroke-play starts on TOUR this year. Woods’ best hope is to make some noise early with a few birdies on the front and get back to doing what he does best: Dominate the par 5s. So far, he’s played them in just 2 under.