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New faces set to challenge US trio of Masters leaders

By AFP

April 13, 2024 07:10 PM


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Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and unlikely challenger Max Homa set the pace while newcomers threatened a charge as Saturday's third round of the Masters began.

The American trio stood on six-under par 138 after 36 holes at the famed course, the first time since 2001 that an all-US threesome led at the halfway mark at Augusta National.

Scheffler, the 2022 Masters winner, has been the oddsmakers' darling and could join Tiger Woods as the only players to win the green jacket twice while world number one.

"Major championship golf has a tendency to just be very mentally grinding," Scheffler said. "You've just got to do your best to relax as much as possible out there and try and execute."

DeChambeau was among eight players from Saudi-backed LIV Golf who made the cut, including defending champion Jon Rahm.

"I'm very excited," DeChambeau said. "I get an opportunity to show my skill set, and hopefully it's good enough to do something special this weekend.

"I feel like the game is in a great spot. Mindset is in a solid place... everything is lining up pretty well. Just got to make sure my lag putts are doing well and striking it well off the tee. That's all that matters. If I can do those things, I'll put myself in a good place."

Homa, chasing his first major triumph, had never before finished in the top five after any round at a major, but led the Masters by making 26 of 36 greens in regulation as well as in proximity to the holes.

"Regardless of outcome, I'd like to maintain this outlook I have on how I'm playing," Homa said. "Good shot, bad shot, doesn't really matter. Did I go through my process, did I commit to my shot?" Homa said.

"I'd like to see if I can continue to do that this weekend. I think that's something I would like to take with me going forward."

Aberg, Hojgaard lurk

Only 14 players withstood swirling winds to finish under par after two rounds, but they include some newcomers eager to become the first rookie to win the green jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard was fourth on 140 in his first Masters while his 2023 European Ryder Cup teammate Ludvig Aberg of Sweden was seventh on 142 in his major debut, having had the day's best round on a blustery Friday with a 69.

"Just keep the ball in front of me," Aberg said when asked about his weekend strategy. "Try to be in the now as much as I can, try not to get too ahead of myself.

"All I'm trying to do is really enjoy it. It's a privilege to be here and play this event."

Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa and Australia's Cameron Davis shared fifth on 141.

Morikawa, the 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 British Open champion, has two top-10 efforts in four prior Masters starts.

"It's going to keep getting tougher, shots are going to be harder, and you've just got to stick to it," he said.

"I'm sure greens are going to be drying out and you can tell on a couple greens out here that they're going to get a little bit bouncy. I've just got to keep plotting my way around this golf course and sticking to my game plan."

Davis, making only his seventh major start, shared fourth at last year's PGA Championship for his top major showing. He placed 46th two years ago in his only prior Masters start.

There's a good omen for that top seven -- the past 12 Masters winners have all been within four strokes of the lead after 36 holes.

By the same token, the greatest 36-hole fightback by a winner in Masters history was the eight-stroke rally by 1956 winner Jack Burke.

That boosts such hopefuls as Tiger Woods, who made his record 24th consecutive Masters cut on 145 to share 22nd, and five-time major winner Brooks Koepka, in a pack on 146.

Needing more distant rallies are Rory McIlroy, who would complete a career grand slam with a Masters win but stood on 148, and Rahm, who was on 149.

 

 


AFP


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