5 things to know heading into Saturday’s Masters action: Accuracy is still key at Augusta

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Todd Kelly
·5 min read
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Justin Rose saw his lead shrink from four shots after the first round to one shot after the 36 holes of the 85th Masters Tournament. There are 20 players within six shots of the lead and 12 within four, setting the stage for an interesting weekend at Augusta National Golf Club.

Augusta National is playing fast and firm and if the rain holds off – that’s a big ‘if’ – the forecast is calling for gusty conditions, which could cause even more havoc.

“When there’s very little friction on the greens, the wind affects the ball more than you think, I mean, more than any of y’all would imagine out here,” Jordan Spieth said. “It just gets very difficult to make a lot of putts. That’s why the scores will be, I think, more challenging over the weekend if we don’t get any rain.”

Here are five things we learned as we look ahead to the final two rounds:

Greens Gainers

Jordan Spieth hits his tee shot on the 12th hole during the second round of The Masters golf tournament. Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

From year to year, the most accurate predictor of Masters excellence is greens in regulation. Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson led the field in this category in their victories the last two years. Jordan Spieth praised his ballstriking over the final six holes Friday, and through the first two rounds nobody has found the green on approach more frequently. The 2015 champion has hit 30 of 36 greens, one more than Xander Schauffele (3 under), and trails leader Justin Rose by two shots. Rose (77.8%), Justin Thomas (77.8%) Hideki Matsuyama (75%) and Tommy Fleetwood (75%) have also hit at least three-fourths of the greens in regulation thus far. Don’t be surprised if all six hang around the leaderboard through the weekend.

Tony Time?

Tony Finau hits his tee shot on the 4th hole during the second round of The Masters golf tournament. Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Missed chances on the greens in the final round have kept Tony Finau (4 under) from winning his second PGA Tour title in recent years. Since taking the Puerto Rico Open in 2016, he’s finished in the top-10 31 times including a trio of top-5s in 2020-21. So far, he’s solved the Augusta National putting surfaces, leading the field in average putts per green in regulation (1.47) and average putts per hole (1.39). It’s also worth noting he’s missed twice in 30 attempts inside five feet. If he can maintain his poise with the putter, the long wait may have a major reward.

Weekend Warriors

Bryson DeChambeau reacts to his tee shot on the 4th hole during the second round of The Masters golf tournament. Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Of the 31 players within seven shots of the lead, there’s firepower among Saturday’s earlier starters. Only three of the top 11 players have won a major. A number of candidates could thrive in calmer conditions before the wind howls late in the afternoon. What if U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau’s 67 on Friday, which he closed with birdies on 17 and 18, provided the confidence required to make a weekend charge? He’s six shots back. Reigning PGA champion Collin Morikawa (2 under) has shown ample firepower the first two days, making 10 birdies. If he can eliminate mistakes, he could be in contention by the second nine on Sunday. Viktor Hovland opened the tournament with a triple bogey, then played the next 35 holes in 5-under to surge within five shots of Rose. The Masters record for largest comeback over the final 36 holes is eight shots in 1956 by Jack Burke Jr.

Zoeller to Zalatoris?

Will Zalatoris watches his putt on the 13th hole during the second round of The Masters golf tournament. Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Only three Masters rookies have claimed the green jacket. Horton Smith Jr. in the first Masters in 1934 (when everyone in the field was a Masters rookie), Gene Sarazen in 1935 (he had a conflict in 1934) and Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. After opening rounds of 70-68, Will Zalatoris, a 24-year-old product of Wake Forest, tees off in the final pairing Saturday, one shot out of the lead. Zalatoris, 46th in the world, has been one of the most consistent players in professional golf over the past 18 months. He’s finished in the top 25 in 10 of 14 PGA Tour starts in the 2020-21 season. Over the first two Masters rounds, he’s hit 69% of the greens, 75% of the fairways and putted once. Strange things can happen to a newcomer in the last group on a Saturday, but don’t be surprised if Zalatoris hangs around. He’s seasoned beyond his age.

Fierce Fifth

Xander Schauffele hits his tee shot on the 5th hole during the first round of The Masters golf tournament. Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

The 495-yard par-4 No. 5, lengthened before the 2019 Masters, continues to be a formidable foe for any field. After 36 holes, it’s the most difficult test at Augusta National, playing to a 4.446 stroke average and producing more double bogeys and others (9) than birdies (5). The hole location Friday on the front left quadrant of the green plagued the participants like it has in each of the last three Masters.

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