By Brendan Porath on Apr 9, 2016, 9:30a
Saturday at the Masters starts the same way it did last year — with Jordan Spieth on top of the leaderboard. But that’s about where the similarities end. In 2015, Spieth was working on a runaway and the final 36 holes seemed like a formality and stroll to the green jacket presentation on Sunday. He had set the new 36-hole scoring record and no one seemed capable of catching him.
This year, Spieth holds just a one-shot cushion over Rory McIlroy, his contemporary with five major championships already to his name. The defending champ came back to the pack on Friday afternoon in some brutally tough conditions at Augusta National, playing his final 14 holes in 4-over to give the rest of the field a chance.
McIlroy was one of those players with a 71, built largely from his strong finish. The Ulsterman poured in three birdies over his final seven holes to make a charge into solo second and secure a spot alongside Spieth in the final Saturday tee time. The golf gods were good to us and this is all we’ve ever wanted out of this Masters.
Thanks to the 10-shot rule, there are 57 players from the original 89 still left in the field. Spieth’s late struggles, bogeys on two of his final three holes, brought a huge swath of players deep down the leaderboard back into it. There are simply too many holes left and the wind is supposed to beat up the players again on Saturday, with big numbers lurking out there if the leaders make a mistake.
Spieth said himself he thought someone from outside the trop 25 could easily jump ahead in the third round and the talent outside of that final power pairing of Rory-Jordan is immense. Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Brandt Snedeker are just some of the names within shouting distance that could make a run on “moving day” at Augusta.