European hopes were carried by Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia. Rose reached the mark of -5 through 15 holes with just the one blemish at the incredibly demanding 11th hole. He is a seasoned campaigner at The Masters and it is no surprise to see him fairing well here. Garcia’s game looked solid as he strolled round in 68 with just one bogey on the card.
Form player Paul Casey finished on -3, as he continued his great golf on the PGA Tour into Augusta. The sensational striker from Surrey reached the mark of -3 through 12 courtesy of 9 pars and 3 birdies. Simple golf if you can get it. It would be some story if Casey could continue this golf into Sunday but you can’t help but feel that The National will bite back at some point.
This bite was seen very evidently with Ian Poulter. Fancied by many prior, Poulter turned in 34 (-2), only to find himself at +2 standing on the 13th tee. And whilst he did manage to recover some of the damage done on 13 and 15 with birdie 4’s, Poulter’s round unravelled once more with a double bogey 5 at the short 16th to finish on +2 for the round.
Few would’ve expected Rory’s challenge to feature so far down the leaderboard, his round of 71 doesn’t leave him totally out of it but it certainly will make for one of the best Masters in history if he chases down a surging Spieth. We’ll be hoping for fireworks on Friday and Saturday to put McIlroy back into position but can’t help but feel he’ll need a very low number to get back into contention as the course, following the rain earlier in the week, looks set for good scoring.
Tiger Woods finished with 73 with a couple of scrambles mixed in with missed opportunities. Few would’ve predicted that score with two ends of the spectrum shown amongst the Patrons this week...
“He’ll win for sure, he’s back and they can put the Green Jacket on him now”
“He has no chance"
Well Tiger is sat in the middle of those opinions currently. Had a few more putts dropped he could’ve easily been 2 or 3 shots better which would’ve seen him really in contention. Fingers crossed for all he has a good round tomorrow as it’d be fantastic to see him in the mix for the weekend.
YGT Ambassadors Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood found themselves at +2 and +1 respectively with Clarke suffering a stretch of 2 double bogies in 3 holes on the front 9. His ball striking looked as impressive as ever and was unlucky not to score better with putts just missing around Amen Corner. Westwood recovered well from a bogey at 11 and a double at 12 to birdie 14 and 15 to see him get back in touch with the chasing pack. Westwood & Clarke’s result this week takes on extra significance because if either is placed in the Top 5, qualifying bookings with YGT will receive a full refund
Picking through the crowds on Berckmans Road and Washington Road this morning, there was a palpable difference in the atmosphere. Where Wednesday and the other practice days were jovial and light hearted, Thursday at the Masters takes on a nervous edge. For the patrons, the feeling was one of anticipation, with glances at start sheets and pin placements, nods to form guides and debates over the merits of the morning tee time versus an afternoon slot.
Inside the gates, through the airport-style security and past the Masters 'Greeters' (yes, there are people there simply to wish you a great day at Augusta National), the changed mood seemed to have transmitted to the players, too. The competitors, who just 24 hours ago were larking around the par-3 course, wore serious expressions. Game face time..
.The atmosphere around here is fantastic; it is hard to believe how much it grows day on day. Expect Masters Fever or Augustaivitus to spread worldwide before we see a Champion crowned on Sunday with the best item of clothing in golf.