AUGUSTA, Ga. — If you're following the tired old cliché about the Masters not beginning until the back nine on Sunday, you're missing some fine golf. Yes, there's no Tiger, and Phil tapped out Friday night. But we've still got star power young and old up and down the leaderboard. Below, we run down the leading contenders for this year's Masters.
Jordan Spieth (-5): The story of the Masters on Sunday. He's 20 years old; he's been on a rocket ascent that no one could have predicted. Every opportunity that Spieth has had to gag, he's risen to the occasion with uncommon grace and tenacity. If he manages to win in his first appearance, he'll be the first to do so since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, and he'll eclipse Tiger Woods' mark as the youngest Masters winner ever. No pressure.
"[Sunday] is about seeing how I can control my game and emotions out on the golf course against guys that have even won here recently," Spieth said. "So they have been in the position. I haven't. Doesn't necessarily mean, I don't think, that they have an advantage in any way. I think that I'm very confident in the way things are going, and really looking forward to [Sunday]."
Bubba Watson (-5): Watson never led until the playoff in his 2012 Masters victory. He did not handle prosperity particularly well Saturday, surrendering a three-shot lead and falling into a tie with Spieth for the lead. The round couldn't end quickly enough for Watson, who was rattling heading toward the turn before steadying himself in the back nine. He'll need to stay more within himself if he's going to hold onto this lead.
"It's always a pleasure to have a chance on a Sunday, especially around here," Watson said. You know the roars you can get. The fans get behind you, especially a lot of Georgia fans around here, so that's good for me."
Matt Kuchar (-4): We've been waiting for Kuchar to win a major ever since his spectacular debut at the Masters in 1998, when he tied for 21st as the low amateur. He's been on a steady upward trajectory the last few years, and while closing is always a problem for the lanky Kuchar, he's right in that career sweet spot where a major would cement his position among his generation's greats.
"I'm certainly excited about my chances for [Sunday]," Kuchar said. "It's going to be one of those unique and special days.
[Slideshow: Moving day at the Masters]
Jonas Blixt (-4): He had two chances to give up in the back nine on Sunday, dunking the ball in water on both 11 and 13. But his quality scrambling saved him, and he, like Spieth, is playing unbelievably well for his first visit to Augusta. He'll need to be both creative and lucky on Sunday.
"I've been putting really well around there," Blixt said. "And I feel like almost everything in my bag is kind of working pretty well. If I can put the golf ball on the fairway [Sunday] I think I'll be dangerous."
Miguel Angel Jimenez (-3): The Mechanic remains one of the most fascinating figures in golf, and even if the "Most Interesting Man In The World" comparisons have hit the hack-comedy stage, they're still funny. Plus, just imagine the 50-year-old Jimenez doing something like this in a green jacket:
"Sometimes I'm looking at myself on video, and I'm laughing too," Jimenez said. "It's nice, it's bueno. But you know what is the main thing? I never get injured."
Jim Furyk (-2): Furyk has been a study in heartbreak the last few years, both at majors and at the Ryder Cup. Certainly, he's got the skill to win the Masters, but he gave two strokes back in the final five holes on Saturday, and he'll need far more precision than that on Sunday.
"I'm hoping really to just stay patient and not try to get ahead of myself," Furyk said. "When you start firing at pins here, you can maybe cross the line from aggressive to stupid pretty easy here. I want to be aggressive [Sunday], but do it in a very intelligent way."
Lee Westwood (-2): For a few years there, Westwood was everyone's favorite hard-luck story, a guy who contended in every major and came up just short each time. He's dropped back to the pack now, but as his consistent performance in some challenging conditions this week has shown, he's still got the game to get within sight of victory.
"Anywhere within five, even six shots of the lead going into the final round of the Masters is given a good chance, especially with the way the golf course is playing out here," Westwood said. "You [can] make even a good shot and drop shots out here."
Fred Couples (-1): A long shot, to be sure, but Couples traditionally falls apart on Saturday at Augusta, and on this day he didn't. (He shot a 1-over 73.) That's a good sign, but Couples still plays like he's held together with masking tape and hope. He'll have to play as well as he ever has to even have a chance on Sunday, but stranger things have happened. Not many, granted.
"[Sunday] you're going to see, someone is going to come from 2-over to 3- to 4-under early in the round, where maybe [the course is] a little softer," the 54-year-old Couples said.
You'd expect that everyone within four strokes of the lead, a total of 13 golfers, has a reasonable chance at victory. Throw in that outlier that Couples is talking about, and you bring in another dozen or so. It's going to be a fine Masters Sunday indeed.
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