Can Patrick Reed continue his surge, or will Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth or another star catch him? Here are four things we think will happen today.
An Aussie will rule
A Leishman major? Given the fact he’s missed nine cuts in his last 26, it’s still a bit of a longshot (current odds list him as 7-to-1). But facts are facts: he’s now survived to the weekend in eight straight majors, including this year. And though he looks every part the bomb-and-gouger, the 6′ 2″, 200-pound Aussie is a bona fide shotmaker, able to work the ball both ways with ease. His 40-yard draw into the par-5 15th green in two on Friday to set up eagle is easily the shot of the tournament. He looks composed and prepared. Today, he stays near the top.
Call it a Jordan comeback
Spieth is five back of the leader, but credit that to uncharacteristic hiccups on the first (double-bogey) and second (bogey) at the start of Friday’s round. While he wasn’t Spiethian over the final 16, he mitigated the damage, going 1-under the rest of the way. If this is anyone’s course other than Bubba Watson’s, it’s Spieth’s. He’s survived his blowup. Today, he flourishes (he’s already ahead of the field in driving accuracy and GIR) and ends up in the final pairing on Sunday.
The Gambler could fold
Patrick Reed has birdied every par 5 thus far in the 2018 Masters, a performance that accounts for 89 percent of his overall strokes under par. Only once, however, did any of these birdies result from hitting the green in two. And he’s laid up but one time. He’s going for it and missing a majority of the time. We like the short game, but this type of risk-non-reward approach doesn’t last long at Augusta National. On Saturday, Reed falls back.
Clichés rule: Good starts lead to good rounds
The first hole at Augusta National is a mild-mannered looking dogleg, with many players opting for 3-wood off the tee. But the 445-yard opener has played as the third most difficult hole in this year’s Masters, with an average score of 4.33. It has forced as many double-bogeys or worse (11) as it has allowed birdies. Challenges abound at Augusta, but nothing’s more deflating the starting a round in red numbers. And check this: the four players at the top of the leaderboard (Reed, Leishman, McIlroy and Spieth) have birdied No. 1 at least once. Those who walk to the second unscathed will earn a statistical leg up on the field, not just today but through the weekend.