Tension Builds As Leaders Begin Final-round Drama At Masters

Tension builds as leaders begin final-round drama at Masters

Augusta, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 15th Apr, 2024) World number one Scottie Scheffler teed off with a one-stroke lead over playing partner Collin Morikawa, a two-time major winner, in Sunday's last group of the final round at the Masters.

Augusta National's lightning-fast greens were already testing the world's top golfers as the leaders began to face the pressure of career-defining shots on the famed 7,555-yard layout.

The champion's green jacket and a record $3.6 million top prize were up for grabs, with 2022 Masters winner Scheffler in the lead at 7-under, Morikawa on 6-under and their US compatriot Max Homa third on 5-under in quest of his first major title.

Scheffler, the oddsmakers' top choice, could match 15-time major champion Tiger Woods as the only players to win the Masters twice while atop the world rankings.

At 27, Scheffler would be the fourth-youngest multiple Masters winner after Woods, Jack Nicklaus and the late Seve Ballesteros.

Scheffler, who hasn't played a round over par since last August, would have the second-fewest Masters starts for any two-time winner with five. Only Horton Smith needed fewer by capturing two of the first three Augusta titles in the 1930s.

Morikawa, 27, chases another major crown after the 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 British Open, and a Masters win would leave him seeking the career grand slam at June's US Open.

Only Nicklaus among those to win all four titles captured the first three legs of the career grand slam at a younger age than Morikawa should he triumph.

Morikawa captured the 2021 DP Tour World Championship at Dubai but since then his lone win came last October in Japan at the PGA Tour's Zozo Championship.

Homa's only top-10 effort in 17 prior major starts was a share of 10th in last year's British Open.

Sweden's Ludvig Aberg was on 4-under and three off the pace in his first major appearance.

Aberg could become the first player to win the Masters in his debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and the first player to win his major debut at Augusta National.

Homa and Aberg both opened with pars.

Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion, holed out from 77 yards at the 18th on Saturday and began four adrift on 3-under.

But the LIV Golf standout opened with a bogey, sending his approach over the first green and missing a 34-foot par putt to stumble back.

That left the top contender among eight players from Saudi-backed LIV who made the cut as 2022 British Open winner Cameron Smith, an Australian who reached 3-under when he blasted out of a bunker for eagle at the par-5 second hole.

There were low scores on offer with milder winds making for ideal conditions. South Korean Tom Kim shot a six-under 66 and American Kurt Kitayama fired a 68.

"It's just hard whether it's blowing 10 or 20 (mph) and just switching all the time," Kim said. "Having the wind down and having definitely pins where you can kind of attack holes, that makes a big difference."

- Tiger eyes four majors -

Out of contention were second-ranked Rory McIlroy, third-ranked defending champion Jon Rahm and 15-time major winner Tiger Woods.

Four-time major winner McIlroy, who needs only a Masters victory to complete a career grand slam, was on 4-over through seven holes while Rahm was 7-over after 11 with a double-bogey, bogey start to the back nine.

Woods, whose 10-over 82 on Saturday was his worst-ever Masters round, closed with a 77 to finish on 16-over 304, last among the 60 players to make the cut.

The 48-year-old legend, who has struggled to walk 72 holes since suffering severe leg injuries in a 2021 car crash, said he was planning to play all four majors this year.

"I'm going to do my homework going forward at Pinehurst, Valhalla and Troon," Woods said. "Hopefully the next three my body will cooperate."