Koepka leading Rahm by 4 on a short Saturday at the Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Moving day at the Masters was mostly about everyone leaving on Saturday.
A cold, relentless rain was too much for Augusta National to handle, leading to one of the earliest finishes for a Saturday — just 15 minutes after CBS came on the air — and setting up a marathon finish for Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and anyone able to catch them.
Koepka, who began the third round with a two-shot lead over Rahm, extended it to four shots when the Spaniard made consecutive bogeys. They made it to the seventh green, already filled with tiny pools of water, before play was suspended for the day.
The round was to resume at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, followed by another two-tee start.
Tiger Woods was relieved to make the cut — his 23rd in a row at the Masters, tying the tournament record — and then looked as though he couldn’t get off the course fast enough after making back-to-back double bogeys for the first time ever at Augusta National. He was in last place, 22 shots behind.
Koepka was at 13-under par and faced a 10-foot par putt on the seventh green. Rahm was at 9 under and had about 8 feet for birdie. There was a long way to go.
“I’m not too concerned about playing 29 holes or however many holes we’ve got left,” Koepka said. “It’s part of the deal. I’m pretty sure I’ll be up for it considering it is the Masters. So I don’t think anybody should have a problem with that.”
The lasting image was thousands of spectators under their green-and-white Masters umbrellas moving slowly in unison toward the exit.
There was plenty of entertainment in the short window of golf, most of it in the morning when the second round was completed.
Temperatures didn’t quite reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). The rain and wind made it feel worse, and playing conditions were so severe that hardly anyone could reach the par 5s. Some players were hitting fairway metal on the par-4 18th.
Rahm did remarkably well to close the gap on Koepka, getting to within one shot when he holed a birdie putt from just off the back of the 17th green. But he came up short of the 18th with a 4-iron — he hit 8-iron into the 18th hole in warm weather on Thursday — and made bogey for a 69.
“Those two holes at the end, 17 and 18, were two absolute monsters,” Rahm said.
Cameron Young summed it for some three dozen players who were forced to handle the rain, the cold and a course that played longer than it ever has on Saturday morning.
“It’s basically impossible,” Young said. “I really don’t know what you’re supposed to do.”
Players lost tee shots to the right because of water on the face of the club — even after wiping it dry before they hit. Shots were skidding across rain-soaked greens. The ball was going nowhere.
Koepka was among the fortunate who finished his second round in the warm breeze on Friday before the bad weather moved in and changed everything.
While it was the first time at the Masters that two players finished 36 holes at double digits under par, this felt more like survival.
No one paid the price quite like Justin Thomas. He returned to the course at 2 under for the tournament and began losing ground quickly, with a shot into the water on the 11th for a double bogey, a tee shot over the back of the green on the par-3 12th and a three-putt bogey on the par-5 15th from 45 feet.
Woods had his own issues. He was hovering around the cut line — he had never missed the cut as a pro at Augusta — when he finished bogey-bogey to fall outside the top 50 and ties. He needed either Thomas or Sungjae Im to bogey one of the last two holes to make it.
Both obliged, but Thomas wound up making bogey on Nos. 17 and 18. He had to hit 5-wood into the 18th, pulled it into the gallery and missed a 10-foot putt for a 42 on the back nine and a 78, matching his worst score in the Masters.
There was a brief respite in the rain, and then out came the umbrellas not long after the third round began.
U.S. Amateur champion Sam Bennett, who at 8-under 136 had the lowest 36-hole score by an amateur since Ken Venturi in 1956, promptly bogeyed his opening two holes.
“It was brutal out there,” Bennett said. “I think they honestly could have called it about 45 minutes earlier, but they tried their best.”
Koepka and Rahm each birdied the par-5 second hole, but then Rahm got out of position on the par-3 fourth for bogey, and three-putted from long range on the fifth. But he ended his day with two good swings and then was done for the day.
Having to complete the third round on Sunday morning is not unusual. The last two times for weather delays on Saturday (2005 and 2006), play resumed and was stopped by darkness. This time it was 3:15 p.m., an abrupt and early end.
The forecast for Sunday should allow for the Masters to finish as scheduled. But even as rain clears, it is sure to leave a softer Augusta National that can be attacked.
“It looks like it’s good weather tomorrow — so we’re going to have good weather conditions and most likely a soft golf course,” Rahm said.
Patrick Cantlay and U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick were 3 under for the second round, the best of scoring on this miserable day. They were tied for fourth, along with Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland, still eight shots behind.
Phil Mickelson also was in the mix. The three-time Masters champion had two early birdies before giving them back. He was in the group at 4-under par and headed to the back nine when play was stopped.
Woods ended Saturday morning with two bogeys and started Saturday afternoon — he was in the last group on the back nine — with another one. But it really got ugly at the end. His wedge to the 15th spun off the green and into the water. And on the par-3 16th, with a front right pin, he went well left and into the water.
But in only his fourth tournament since last year’s Masters, he was still playing. He joined Fred Couples and Gary Player in the Masters record book with his 23rd straight cut made. Couples carved out his own spot in the book. At age 63, he became the oldest player to make the cut at the Masters.
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