The Masters: Young guns vs. old guys

jkendall@thestate.comApril 12, 2014 

— The Masters is up for grabs, and the greens likely will decide who holds on Sunday.

Bubba Watson had a chance to put it away Saturday, but instead backed up to the field. The 2010 Masters champion shot a 2-over 74 to fall to 5-under for the tournament and is tied with 20-year-old Masters first-timer Jordan Spieth.

“If somebody had told me Monday I’d have a 74, be tied for the lead, I’d take it all day long,” Watson said after a round that featured five bogeys, one birdie and one eagle.

Spieth has been dubbed the game’s next star and will have the chance to prove it. He shot his second consecutive 70 on Saturday and would become the youngest Masters champion in history if he wins Sunday. Tiger Woods holds the distinction at 21 years, three months and 14 days.

“Today was a day to stay patient and get myself a later tee time,” Spieth said. “Tomorrow is about seeing how I can control my game and emotions out on the golf course. I am very confident in the way things are going, and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Spieth will play in Sunday’s final pairing with the 35-year-old Watson and says he will address his partner as “Mr. Watson for sure, just because it will mess with him.”

“That’s fine, when I’m hitting it past him …,” Watson responded.

Spieth, who entered the day 3-under, joked with Watson before Saturday’s round that he’d see him in the final group Sunday.

“I said, ‘You better play good,’ ” Watson said. “Obviously, I should have played better.”

Spieth joined the PGA Tour in 2013 and won the 2013 John Deere Classic. This season, he had three top-five finishes entering his first Masters. He will be TV’s top story line Sunday, but he is far from the only one as 13 players are within five shots of the lead.

• Fifty-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez (3-under) could win his first Masters in the week before he is scheduled to make his debut on the Champions Tour, formerly the Senior Tour. Jimenez shot the low round of the tournament with a 6-under 66 on Saturday.

Majors-less veteran Matt Kuchar (4-under) has finished in the top 10 nine times in 12 events this season and has improved his score all three days here, shooting a 4-under 68 on Saturday.

“I’m really excited for tomorrow,” Kuchar said. “This is a position all of us hope to be in when we show up on Monday or Tuesday.”

• Rickie Fowler (3-under) nearly matched Jimenez’s round with a 67. Known more for his fashion than his one PGA Tour win, Fowler has not finished higher than 27th in his three previous Masters appearances.

“I’m really comfortable on this golf course now,” he said. “After the first three tournaments and practice rounds here, I feel like I’m able to go around this course with a little bit more feel instead of trying to calculate my way around at times with slopes and how much it plays up or down. Definitely getting more into the feel, which is how I like to play the game.”

• Familiar names such as Lee Westwood (2-under), Jim Furyk (2-under) and Fred Couples (1-under) also are within striking distance.

Everyone involved agreed the course will have the final word Sunday. They each came into their post-round interview sessions talking more like survivors than golfing superstars.

“Greens are as fast as I ever remember seeing Masters greens,” Kuchar said. “A bit on the frightening side, but it’s fun. It’s what we come here for.”

Watson agreed the greens were as firm as he can remember, and that might not be a good thing for him. He is tied for 33rd this week with 91 putts. Fowler (81 putts), second-place Jonas Blixt (83), Jimenez (83) and Kuchar (86) are in the top 10 in putting.

“There are front pins that you really couldn’t stay below, so you’re going to be putting downhill, and it’s almost like you’re putting on rolling gravel,” said Spieth, who has taken 91 putts. “It was almost like it was picking up speed even as it went by the hole. It was crazy, crazy fast out there. I’ve never putted on greens like this before. It’s not like hitting the smart shot gets you an easy par. You still have to work for it, and that’s why I’ll lose some more hair as we go on this week.”

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