Saturday is traditionally ‘moving day’ in major championships, and yet this Saturday at Augusta seemed to be more like ‘non moving day’. There was a lot of jockeying for position behind overnight leader Rory McIlroy, but not that many significant moves were made.
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy led by two shots from Australia’s Jason Day after the second round, and managed to double that lead to four, with one round to go. He is now 12-under par and the firm favourite to win a Green Jacket, at the tender age of 21.
Those chasing him on 8-under are Argentinian past champion Angel Cabrera (who will play with Rory tomorrow) South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, K.J. Choi from South Korea and Jason Day from Australia.
Two shots further back on 7-under are Australian Adam Scott and Englishman Luke Donald.
“I’ve said it all week,” said McIlroy. “I’m beginning to feel very comfortable on this golf course. Having a four shot lead with 18 holes to play is a very good position. I was really patient today and just didn’t push too hard.”
After a slowish start which saw him reach the turn in level par,he made a bogey at the difficult 10th, and it wasn’t until the final six holes that he made his move.
He made simple birdies at the two par-5s, the 13th and the 15th, two putting both times, and then at the 17th he sank a 30-footer for a birdie, after his drive hooked left and went under the trees.
“That putt was a real bonus for me,” he said afterwards. “I’d been waiting for one of those to go in all day, and so the timing was perfect. But, I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself. I know there’s a long way to go; and I know how fast a four-shot lead can go. Graeme (McDowell) was out there watching me today which was nice. He’s just sent me a text saying he loves me. I’m not sure if that’s him or the beer talking! It would be nice to get a major early and show some of the younger guys that it can be done. I know I will be nervous on the 1st tee. There would be something very wrong if I wasn’t. But, I’ve got to try and go out there as if I don’t have any lead at all, and just keep playing exactly how I have been.”
Chubby Chandler, his manager, said he would relax tomorrow by watching Ulster v Northampton at rugby, before his afternoon tee off time.
He is due to fly straight to Malaysia next week for a tournament out there; and Chandler confirmed he will do that, regardless of whether he wins or not tomorrow.
This really looks like being the major championship which signals the changing of the times because the average age of the leaderboard is very young. What’s more, there is no American in the top seven players. Tiger could of course still make a charge if his putter starts to get hot, but Cabrera is the only player near the top to have won a major before, and the odds must be on a first time champion.
Rory McIlroy -12
Angel Cabrera -8
Charl Schwartzel -8
K.J. Choi -8
Jason Day -8
Adam Scott -7
Luke Donald -7
Bo Van Pelt -6
Bubba Watson -5
Ross Fisher -5
Fred Couples -5
Geoff Ogilvy -5
Tiger Woods -5
Martin Laird -4
Ryan Palmer -4
Hidki Matsuyama -3
Edoardo Molinari -3
Phil Mickelson -3
Steve Stricker -3
Lee Westwood -3
Alvaro Quiros -3
Leading tee times:
2.40 pm (UK time 7.40) Rory McIlroy, angel Cabrera
2.30 pm Charl Schwarzel, K.J.Choi
2.20 pm Jason Day, Adam Scott
2.10 pm Luke Donald, Bo Van Pelt
2.00 pm Bubba Watson, Ross Fisher
1.50 pm Fred Couples, Geoff Ogilvy
1.40 pm Tiger Woods, Martin Laird
1.30 pm Matt Kuchar, Ryan Palmer
1.20 pm Yong-Eun Yang, Hideki Matsuyama
1.10 pm Edoardo Molinari, Phil Mickelson
1.00 pm Steve Stricker, Lee Westwood
12.50 pm Alvaro Quiros, Miguel Angel Jimenez
12.30 pm Ian Poulter, DAvid Toms
12.20 pm Brandt Snedeker, Jim Furyk
12.10 pm Ricky Barnes, Justin Rose
12.00 pm Ryan Moore, Charley Hoffman
11.50 pm Ryo Ishikawa, Dustin Johnson
11.40 pm Trevor Immelman, Sergio Garcia
11.30 pm Rickie Fowler, Robert Karlsson
11.20 pm Gary Woodland, Jeff Overton
11.10 pm Steve Marino, Camilo Villegas
11.00 pm Bill Haas, Alexander Cejka
10.50 pm Paul Casey, Aaron Baddeley
10.40 pm Nick Watney, Ernie Els
10.30 pm Kyung-Tae Kim, (non-competing marker)