Everyone that made the cut is through 18 holes on Day 3 at the 2016 Masters. That includes tournament leader Jordan Spieth, who had a below-average day by his standards, largely on the basis of just two holes.
There’s a lot of shoulda-coulda-woulda in golf and Spieth’s lead at the 2016 Masters could be a lot larger than it is right now if not for double-bogeys in round three on hole 11 and 18. However, the slips do create what promises to be an incredible day of golf on Sunday.
Here’s a look at the standings heading into the final day:
1. Spieth, -3 (+1 on Day 3)
2. Smylie Kaufman, -2 (-3 on Day 3)
3. Bernhard Langer, -1 (-2 on Day 3)
3. Hideki Matsuyama, -1 (even on Day 3)
Except for the four players listed above, there are no other players in the red. Notably, Rory McIlroy gave back a lot of strokes on Saturday as he went from being -3 and one behind the lead to where he is now, +2 and 5 back of the leader. Hitting into the water at #11 was probably the lowlight of the 26-year old’s day. However, there wasn’t much to be happy about overall as he failed to birdie even a single hole.
Jason Day, although not on the short list of players mentioned above, was a player whose tournament outlook improved on Saturday. The Aussie was one of just five players that negotiated a below-par score on the day, and he gained two strokes on Spieth overall. Heading into Sunday, the 2015 PGA Championship winner is among a trio of players at even for the entire tournament, alongside both Dustin Johnson and Danny Willett.
When it comes to proven players on tour in recent seasons, the tournament is largely shaping up as a Sunday showdown between Spieth and Day – with Matsuyama in the thick of things as well. The Japanese player is yet to win a major. However, he has buzzed around the shortlist of favorites before including at the Masters. Last year he finished 5th at the event with a final score of -11.
But American player Smylie Kaufman is very much the “man of the moment” when it comes to new faces making gains. The 24-year-old is playing in just his second major and this year’s Masters marks the first time he has made a cut.
Kaufman really charged into the final holes on Saturday, going -3 over the last six to greatly improve the complexion of his tournament. Just one stroke off of the pace, Kaufman might be in a for a sleepless night on Saturday: currently, he is a fringe player, but if he duplicates his result from Saturday on Sunday then he stands a good chance of winning his first green jacket.
Bernhard Langer, at the age of 58, isn’t a new face – but nor is he a regular contender in the majors at this point. Best known for winning the Masters twice, his most recent title dates back to 1993. Since 2000, Langer has frequently missed the cut, and he does not regularly contest the other majors. But should he win on Sunday, it would make him the oldest champion at the event in its history.
The 2016 Masters is certainly shaping up to be a very competitive tournament. With one shot, whether lucky or skilled, the complexion of the leaderboard could change. That’s different than last year when Spieth held a four-stroke lead heading into the final round and then protected it for a comfortable win.
The American remains the odds-on favorite, but he did appear vulnerable at times on Saturday. That has to have Kaufman and Langer dreaming the impossible dream at this point in their respective careers while Matsuyama and Day look to prove themselves even further with what would be a first-time green jacket for each player and a first-time major title for the former.