“The safety of everyone on our grounds is paramount,” said Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club. “We also believe the earlier start will give us the best opportunity to complete the Masters on Sunday. This decision should benefit everyone – the players, our patrons and our fans watching around the world. Given the competitiveness and drama of this year’s tournament, we look forward to an exciting conclusion tomorrow.”
The announcement was made as American Tony Finau was completing an eye-catching thrust on moving day in the season’s opening major. Bidding to become the fifth player in a row to make the Masters a first major, the 29-year-old carded a stunning eight-under-par 64. One outside the course record, that swept him to 11-under-par in just his second appearance in the event.
Finau, who tied for tenth on his debut last year after dislocating his ankle in the Par 3 event but popping it straight back in, burst out of the blocks with three birdies. He added another at the sixth then an eagle at the eighth, where he almost holed his second from 265 yards, before picking up shots at the 13th and 15th coming home.
In the easiest conditions of the week, Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open champion, and Patrick Cantlay also carded 64s to move to nine-under and six-under respectively. “It feels good,” said Simpson of his effort. “I’ve never had a chance here and never taken it deep here, last year I had it going the last round. So it’s nice, it’s always nice to have a chance at any tournament, but it’s pretty special here.”
Bubba Watson knows that, having won twice, and he reckons tough last-day conditions could give him a chance of slipping into a third Green Jacket. “Tomorrow’s going to be a tough day, so the beauty of it is that a lot of people are going to have a shot,” said the left-hander after equalling his best score in the event with a 67 in the third round to move to five-under. “I saw [a forecast] of 17 miles an hour wind, rain, and so you’re talking about the golf course changing completely.
“And then pressure on top of that. I’m within shouting distance and anything can happen, especially at a major.”