Shane Lowry rattles in a 25-footer across 18, and that’s a final round of 69! He smiles wryly, perhaps thinking about the triple bogey on 4, or yesterday’s fudged lay-up at 13. Either way, he’s bounced back well from disappointment to finish with three birdies in the last six holes. Pars meanwhile for both Scheffler and Smith on 17.
-12: Scheffler (17)
-7: McIlroy (F)
-5: Lowry (F), Smith (17)
Scheffler wedges to three feet. This has been a masterclass.
Scheffler takes 3-wood off the 17th tee for safety purposes … only to slice into the trees down the right. After long deliberations with his caddy, he plays it smart, taking his medicine and chipping back out. No need for heroics. A textbook lesson in course management. Smith, by contrast, is in the trees down the left, but he understandably doesn’t care any more, so goes for the green. He whips over the trees and onto the front edge. Marvellous.
A two-putt par for Scheffler on 16 and he’s one step closer to his dream. Smith goes one better, though, rolling a left-to-right slider into the cup for another birdie. He’s grabbed third place back for himself, and after what he’s been through, surely only Morikawa and Lowry would begrudge him! A bogey finish for Justin Thomas, meanwhile, and he ends the week at -1 after a second 72 of the weekend.
-12: Scheffler (16)
-7: McIlroy (F)
-5: Smith (16)
-4: Morikawa (F), Lowry (17)
-3: Zalatoris (F), Conners (F)
-2: Im (17)
-1: Thomas (F)
Scheffler and Smith knock their tee shots to 15 feet or so. Perhaps the last banana skin given the bodyswerve by the world number one. Meanwhile up on 18, Charl Schwartzel makes a birdie that ensures the 2011 champion ends the week in the top ten. A 74 today, and he’s level par for the week.
Scottie Scheffler is relentless! His chip up from the back of 15 isn’t great, rolling eight feet past the flag, but he steers in the right-to-left curler coming back for another birdie. He’s got a five-shot lead with three holes to go. This is one of the great Masters performances! Birdie for Cam Smith, too, who seems to have battled his way through the worst of the disappointment and cuts a more relaxed figure now.
-12: Scheffler (15)
-7: McIlroy (F)
-4: Morikawa (F), Lowry (16), Smith (15)
Corey Conners finishes in the top ten at the Masters for the third year in a row! The 30-year-old Canadian birdies 14, 17 and now 18 to end the day with a two-under-par 70. He ends the week at -3. Meanwhile a fine two-putt par from distance on 16 by Shane Lowry, who had shoved his tee shot miles wide right, 70 feet from the flag. He’s battling hard to keep hold of his share of third place.
Hats off to Scheffler, who seems determined to win in style. He’s not laying up! He draws a 7-iron around the trees on the left-hand side of the 15th fairway and lands his ball on the green. It topples off the back, but he’s close enough where getting down in two for birdie is more likely than not. Cam Smith is on in two, but he’s playing without fear now, the jig long up.
Birdie for Shane Lowry at 15! He’s suddenly grabbed a share of third place with Collin Morikawa at -4. Back on the tee, Scottie Scheffler whistles a drive down the left of the fairway. He’ll probably not have a route to the green from there; he’d probably have laid up wherever he ended up, with all those shots in his back pocket. Rory’s right, he’s almost certainly going to come up short, but this could be a performance that blows a lot of cobwebs away. He’s not really seriously contested in the majors for a while now, but he has today, and hopefully that’ll get the juices flowing. Never mind next year at Augusta: watch out Southern Hills at the PGA?
Scheffler makes his birdie from close range at 14. No fuss. A textbook way to play the hole. He’s now got a four-shot lead with four holes to play. Smith meanwhile makes another bogey. He’s thoroughly dejected, much as you’d expect.
-11: Scheffler (14)
-7: McIlroy (F)
Rory McIlroy talks to Sky. “I got off to a great start and just kept it rolling. It’s probably not going to be low enough, but I can’t ask any more of myself. I played a really good round of golf. I may come up a couple short, but it’s the most fun I’ve had on a golf course for a very long time! I’m getting the hang of this place after 14 years of trying.”
A fine response here by Scottie Scheffler, who will surely know what’s gone down, and has just missed a short putt that would have further extended his lead. He blooters his drive down the middle of 14, then nearly spins his wedge into the cup for eagle! He’ll have a look at birdie from four feet. Anyone hoping for a collapse to give McIlroy the chance of pulling on that elusive green jacket looks likely to be sorely disappointed. Scheffler is one cool customer!
That was an absolutely outrageous bunker shot by Rory McIlroy! He couldn’t go anywhere near the flagstick, sending his ball a good 30 feet to the right, and letting the topography of Augusta National do the work. “I love Rory McIlroy,” swoons Matt Dony. “That was an unbelievable round, finished in cartoon style. Probably won’t be quite enough, and congratulations to Scheffler for all he’s done so far. You don’t want to wish bad on people, but I would love it if this falls into Rory’s lap. Argh! Tension! I’m going to pour another glass of wine.”
McIlroy flung his club into the bunker in sheer delight before wheeling off on cloud nine! The roar, no doubt, could be heard all over the course. Certainly at 13, where Scheffler pushes his short birdie putt wide right. This isn’t over quite yet! And then back on 18, another lovely moment as McIlroy’s partner Collin Morikawa holes out from sand as well. McIlroy, arms aloft, celebrates almost as giddily as he did his own. The pair embrace, and whatever happens, that’s a Masters memory for the ages!
-10: Scheffler (13)
-7: McIlroy (F)
-4: Morikawa (F), Smith (13)
Rory McIlroy shoots 64 and posts -7!
Astonishing scenes on 18! McIlroy sent his second from the bunker on the left of the fairway into the big trap guarding the right of the green. He then swishes his sand shot into the heart of the green, utilising the camber to bring his ball curling to the left, then rolling down the hill and into the cup! That always looked like it was heading in, and that’s a sensational end to an amazing round of golf! Just one off the course record, and he’s posted a mark that, you never know, may yet spook Scottie Scheffler!
Scheffler nips a wedge from 50 yards to five feet. Smith can only send his third shot to 25 feet, and he hammers the hosel of his wedge into the bank of Rae’s Creek. You can’t blame him; the disappointment so brutally administered at the 12th must be crushing. Meanwhile up on 18 …
Rory McIlroy larrups his drive at 18 into the bunker on the left. He needs to channel the spirit of Sandy Lyle from there. Back on 13, Cam Smith, who may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, goes for the green with his second. He doesn’t catch his 5-wood, which is probably for the best as it stops short of Rae’s Creek. Scottie Scheffler, meanwhile, lays up. No risks. No point. He’s four shots clear, and six holes away from his first major championship!
Will Zalatoris, last year’s runner-up, makes par on 18. He signs for a 67 that gives him the clubhouse lead at -3. Meanwhile a fine up and down from sand at the front of 17 by Rory McIlroy, who was always out of position after sending his drive into the trees down the left. He remains alone in second place at -6, but needs a birdie up the last, plus Scottie Scheffler to become overwhelmed with the enormity of what he’s about to pull off, if he’s to have any chance at all.
This is Scottie Scheffler’s Masters to lose now. His response to Smith’s tragedy isn’t great, an overly conservative tee shot that nearly disappears into the azaleas back left. But his ball snags in the fringe, and he’s able to bundle a chip up to ten feet. Smith meanwhile sends his third from the dropzone wide right of the green, and doesn’t get particularly close when chipping up four. Scheffler makes his par putt and strides off the green to the 13th tee, leaving Smith to miss his double-bogey putt. A triple-bogey six, and he clatters down the standings to -4. Ten minutes ago, Smith’s hopes were a going concern. Now it’s all over for him.
-10: Scheffler (12)
-6: McIlroy (16)
-4: Smith (12)
What Amen Corner gives with one hand, it takes with another. Smith, coming off the high of birdie at 11, sends a dismal tee shot at 12 slicing to the right. Into the briny it plops. Nowhere near getting over the creek! Cameron Smith joins a long list of players to come a cropper at Golden Bell. Jordan Spieth, Francesco Molinari, Tom Weiskopf (see No5 below), all that.
Scheffler leaves his chip eight feet short. Hmm. The door’s slightly ajar … and Smith barrels through it, ramming a confident birdie putt into the cup. Big pressure on Scheffler to make his par saver now … but he’s up to it. Ice in the veins! The gap closes, but Scheffler has ensured it’s not a two-shot swing with a staunch effort.
-10: Scheffler (11)
-7: Smith (11)
The outgoing champion Hideki Matsuyama soaks up the love of the patrons as he walks up 18. He finishes his title defence by letting a birdie opportunity slip by. A level-par 72. He ends the week at +2, and we’ll see him again soon in the Butler Cabin, draping a jacket of Pantone 342 over the shoulders of … well … who? Back on 11, Scheffler, with shots in hand, lays up, seeing no point in dicing with the pond on the left and swales to the right. Smith has to go for it, though, and arrows one of the shots of the day at the flag. He ends pin high, 15 feet from the flag. Big moment coming up!
McIlroy’s playing partner Morikawa makes birdie on 15 to join the group at -3. He then sets up a 12-foot uphill putt for birdie at the par-three 16th. Rory up next, and he needs to go close. He whips his 7-iron into the heart of the dancefloor … but the slope doesn’t take his ball closer to the hole as he’d have hoped. A couple of steps further on, and the ball would have taken the break. Still, he’ll have a look at birdie from 15 feet.
McIlroy gives his putt from the fringe a good go. He tickles it down, left to right from 20 feet, the ball stopping a dimple’s width to the left. He squats down on his haunches in anguish. It’s not a disaster, but he really needed birdie there, to keep the scoreboard pressure up. He stays at -6. Meanwhile on 17, Zalatoris is a couple of inches away from rolling in a 30-footer for yet another birdie. It’s not to be. He remains at -3.
Nope. He prods at his downhill left-to-right slider in a very ginger fashion, and it rolls off to the right well before the cup. He’s got a tricky three footer coming back, too. You’d say this was all good news for McIlroy, but his wedge into 15 sticks on the fringe at the back of the green, and that’s not exactly the greatest birdie chance. He might have to make it if he’s to post a score to seriously worry Scheffler and Smith, who may have yet to negotiate Amen Corner, but they’ll have the two par fives to come afterwards.
-10: Scheffler (10)
-6: McIlroy (14), Smith (10)
-3: Zalatoris (16), Lowry (11)
It looks like another high finish for last year’s runner-up Will Zalatoris. He’s just birdied six of his last nine holes – 8, 9, 10, 13, 15 and now 16 – to rise to -3 and a share of fourth. Meanwhile up on 15, McIlroy whacks his ball out of leafy bother down the left. Effectively a lay-up. And back on 10, Scheffler hits a thin chip up the bank and ten feet past the hole. He can’t make the putt coming back, the ball always dying to the left, and that’s his first bogey of the day. Can Smith nail his par saver to take advantage?
… but Scheffler pulls his approach down the swale to the left of the green! He’s not quite into the pine straw, but with the flag tucked on that side of the green, that’s not going to be the easiest of chips. Can he pull another miracle out of the hat? He’ll be hoping so, especially as Smith then calmly swishes a 9-iron to six feet! A great chance to save an unlikely par.
It’s all looking good for Scottie Scheffler right now. He crashes his drive at 10 down the middle, but Smith hooks wildly into the bushes down the left. He’s forced to hack back out. Meanwhile on 15, McIlroy pulls his tee shot down the left of 15. He won’t be getting on in two from there. Eagle now a pipe dream. Scheffler’s closest challengers in a wee bit of trouble.
A glorious par for Rory on 14 to keep his challenge on track. His drive finds the second cut down the left, and he’s forced to deal with overhanging branches. He doesn’t quite get enough on his punch out to reach the green, leaving himself just short. No matter! He sends what looks like a misread chip wide left, his ball nearly toppling off the back left … but he’s using the backstop to bring his ball all the way around to the right, rolling gracefully to a stop, two feet from the flag. He tidies up to remain at -6.
Welcome to the start of the 2022 Masters Tournament! Yep, the leaders have made it to the back nine. Here we go, then.
Smith goes very close with a 25-foot left-to-right curler, but it’s always missing on the high side. He’ll tap in for par from three feet. But before he can do that, Scheffler races his birdie chance wide left. A mis-read and another chance to put extra distance between himself and Smith goes by. But he’s turning in two-under 34 nonetheless, and retains a four-shot lead.
-11: Scheffler (9)
-7: Smith (9)
-6: McIlroy (13)
-3: Im (10), Lowry (10)
Min Woo Lee, out in 30 strokes, comes back in 40. He signs for a 70 and finishes the week at +2. A fine debut that puts plenty of experience in the bank. Back on 9, both Smith and Scheffler are on in regulation, but the leader is closer, pin high with a fairly straight eight-footer begging to be made for birdie.
It’s three birdies in four holes for Shane Lowry, who rolls one in from 30 feet on 9. He turns in 35, and will have fever dreams about that tee shot on 4 tonight. He’s -3. His partner Im is moving the other way, sadly, making a three-putt bogey. He’s also -3 now. Meanwhile on 13, McIlroy sends a glorious long iron to ten feet … then knocks in the eagle putt! He’s suddenly seven under for his round … and only one shot off the second-placed Cam Smith! Eagle for his playing partner Collin Morikawa, too, the reigning Open champion rising to -2 overall. Masters Sunday, right here!
-11: Scheffler (8)
-7: Smith (8)
-6: McIlroy (13)
-3: Im (9), Lowry (9)
Scheffler rather clunks his chip up, and leaves a 17-footer for birdie. Has a chance to further turn the screw on Smith been spurned? Smith gets relief from the stand behind the green, then clips a cute chip up to three feet. That’s a great up and down in the circumstances, doubly so when Scheffler fails to make his birdie putt. It’s as you were, and Smith will be the happier with the way that panned out.
Smith chips out of the sand at 8 … then flies his approach over the back of the green. That’s a poor shot, and Scheffler, who is in the swales to the right of the green in two, and has a relatively easy chip over a mound, has a serious advantage over his playing partner now. The lead could be getting bigger soon.
Par for Rory McIlroy at the iconic 12th. Then he draws a 3-wood around the corner at 13, so he’s negotiated Amen Corner without issue. Meanwhile back on 9, Justin Thomas eases a lovely wedge into 9 but then misses the four-footer for birdie. Irritated, he then flays his tee shot at 10 into the trees down the right. It doesn’t take much for the wheels to come of at Augusta.
Scheffler stripes his drive down the par-five 8th. That’s gone miles. He’ll be able to get on in two. Smith tries to replicate it, but sends his tee shot into the bunker on the right. That’ll enforce a lay-up. Up on the green, Im misses a six-footer for birdie and stays stuck at -4, but Lowry makes his putt from similar distance to repair the last scrap of damage from that triple-bogey six on 4. He’s level par for his round again and -2 overall.
Smith rolls his downhill birdie putt straight into the cup. He’s as good as anyone from close range. A birdie … and it’s one matched by Scheffler, as the pair pull one shot further away from the chasing pack.
-11: Scheffler (7)
-7: Smith (7)
-4: McIlroy (11), Im (7)
-3: Thomas (8)
-2: Conners (9)
-1: Willett (9), Lowry (7)
E: Zalatoris (12), Champ (12), Morikawa (11), Schwartzel (8)
Scheffler splits the fairway at 7, then lands his wedge from 130 yards right next to the hole. It spins back maybe four feet. He’ll have a good look at birdie. Smith gently throws his sand wedge over the flag, allowing the slope to bring his ball to a similar distance. But he’ll have a downhill putt, while Scheffler has the easier uphill version. Meanwhile over on 11, McIlroy sends his approach into the new swales down in Larry Mize Country. His chip is decent, but trundles eight feet past. He makes the saver coming back, though, and the hardest hole on the course this week is now behind him. He remains at -4.
Im Sung-jae makes up for bogey at 4 with birdie at 7, and joins McIlroy in a share of third spot. Back on 6, Smith leaves his first putt nine feet short, but once again makes a par putt that, under the current circumstances, he simply can’t miss. Scheffler rolled his first one to four feet, and he makes no mistake. They move on, once again as they were. Meanwhile JT, bedecked in the blue and yellow of Ukraine, is forced to chip out from the trees on 8, then pulls his approach wide left. He clips his ball through a swale to tap-in range, and that’s a great par save in the circumstances.
-10: Scheffler (6)
-6: Smith (6)
-4: McIlroy (10), Im (7)
-3: Thomas (8)
Rory McIlroy sends his second at 10 into the heart of the green. The ball topples over the back right. Just. Out comes the wedge … and he trundles it in from 40 feet! Birdie, and he’s definitely not out of this yet. Not least because both Scheffler and Smith have sent bang average tee shots into 6, almost identically so, the ball landing in the middle of the green before being taken 60 feet away from the hole by the slope. Putting competition coming up! Scheffler to go first, just as he did with the chipping comp on 3. This is getting increasingly absurd! This is Masters Sunday!
-10: Scheffler (5)
-6: Smith (5)
-4: McIlroy (10)
-3: Thomas (7), Im (6)
A second birdie in three holes at 7 for Justin Thomas, who moves to -3 and must be seriously cursing his opening round of 76. Actually, he’ll be cursing his drive at 8, too, hooking it into the trees down the left. Back on 5, Smith is faced with an 80-footer over a huge ridge. For a second, it looks as though his putt is going to break miles right and topple off down the wrong side of the green, but he’s had to dice with death in order to get his ball to eventually turn left. He leaves himself a six-footer, which under extreme pressure he makes. Scheffler’s birdie putt shaves the hole, but the lead remains four. On Sky, Butch Harmon suggests getting down in two putts from where Smith found himself was a 50 to one shot. Well, if that’s the case, that’ll give Smith a boost. That could easily have been a two-shot swing in Scheffler’s favour. As it is, they play on as they were.
A break for Smith, whose drive lands between the two bunkers to the left of the 5th fairway. He doesn’t take advantage, though, only just finding the front of the green, from where two putts for par is far from certain. Scheffler knocks his pin high, and after a shaky start, looks every inch the champion now. Meanwhile an update on Shane Lowry: he found his first ball on 4, but had to take a drop, then dumped his third weakly into sand. He ended up with a triple-bogey six … but he’s just rattled in a birdie putt on 6 to move back into red figures at -1.
Golf’s a game of two halves all right. Having hit the turn in 30, with four straight birdies, Min Woo Lee makes four straight bogeys. He crashes back down the standings to +2, and it was good while it lasted. McIlroy meanwhile pars 9 to hit the turn in 32. And back on 5, Scheffler splits the fairway, but Smith may have found a bunker to the left. Advantage Scheffler … though we’ve already found out how quickly things can turn.
Scheffler pulls his tee shot at 4 long and left. He leaves himself yet another tricky pitch … and yet again he’s up to the task! He bundles another one up to kick-in distance from 30 yards. He’ll tidy up for par. Smith however can’t get up and down from the bunker at the front – his tee shot was a yard away from being perfect – and suddenly the lead is four. Smith has probably been playing the better golf, but Scheffler has conjured up two magnificent up and downs, on 1 and 4, as well as that fortunate chip at 3. It’s all going his way at the moment!
-10: Scheffler (4)
-6: Smith (4)
-3: McIlroy (8), Im (5)
-2: Schwartzel (6), Thomas (6)