Sunday at the 2023 Masters

Brooks Koepka still leads at this waterlogged Masters. (Justin Lane/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Brooks Koepka leads, but Mother Nature has been in control

AUGUSTA, Ga. — It became a good walk soiled, in an old line derived from an older line. Mud squished beneath shoes. Droplets hung on the ends of pine needles. The sky kept crying, and not even the thought of John Daly appearing down the road at Hooters all week could stop it.

The checkerboard green-and-white umbrellas of Augusta National became the dominant sight across the hilly landscape of Augusta National. The humans wore layers. A Masters Saturday sounded muffled. A man near the 10th green toppled down a slope to the ground in that gradual, two-part way that seems to be in slow motion. A man near the clubhouse went ahead and toppled briskly backward. The drooping branches of the grand old magnolias almost seemed to say, “What the hell?”

The 87th Masters played the end of its second round and the beginning of its third Saturday in temperatures shy of 50 degrees and rain halfway to remorseless. Happy spring. Jon Rahm finished his last nine holes from Friday in 1 under par to reach 10 under and join Brooks Koepka (12 under) as the first pair of double-digit-under-par 36-hole scorers in Masters history.

Then the third round got going with threesomes at Nos. 1 and 10, and soon both birdied No. 2. Soon after that Rahm bogeyed Nos. 4 and 5, doubling Koepka’s lead. They stood at 13 under and 9 under and reached a green with the water threatening to deepen enough to allow certain smallish fish species when, at 3:17 p.m., Augusta National called the day kaput for good.

“I feel like I just survived,” 2013 champion Adam Scott said of the morning excursion.

“Yeah, the ball just goes nowhere,” said Viktor Hovland, the young comer in vague contention at 5 under with 29 holes left.

“We can already hear the SubAir going,” Rahm said of the underground drainage system designed to make Sunday forget about Saturday.

Come Sunday, the leaders will have 30 holes to play as Rahm chases a first Masters title and a second major title, while Koepka seeks a first Masters title, a fifth major title and a first major title for anybody playing on the slacker circuit, Saudi-backed LIV Golf, with its 54-hole events and lack of cuts.

Beneath them toiled both those who failed to menace Saturday and those who began to menace Saturday.

Fresh sensation Sam Bennett, a 23-year-old amateur, began the third round at 8 under, bogeyed Nos. 1 and 2 and rooted around the next four holes at 6 under with 30 holes left when things stopped. Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa got to 7 under after four holes, then backtracked to 5 under with 29 holes left. Hovland began at 6 under, fell to 5 under, got back to 6 under and fell to 5 under with 29 holes left. Patrick Cantlay and Matt Fitzpatrick, ranked Nos. 4 and 15 in the world with the latter the reigning U.S. Open champion, joined the leader board by moving from 2 under to 5 under, Cantlay after 13 holes of his third round and Fitzpatrick after 11.

Between the rounds, golfers told of their version of hardship.

“I mean, it’s basically impossible,” said Cameron Young, the 2022 British Open runner-up who was tied for eighth at 4 under. “I don’t really know what you’re supposed to do. It’s playing so long. … I mean, I hit a great shot on 18 — I think it landed in a puddle.”

Speaking of the dreaded slick pine straw as did some, he said of No. 13, “My foot slipped, and I kind of chunked it into the woods.”

Some told stories about certain holes requiring bigger clubs, with Hovland saying the par-4 No. 14 usually asks for driver and wedge but instead asked for 9-iron or 7-iron on the back end, but he did say, “Yeah, I didn’t really have too many mud balls.” He spoke of the enhanced kinship of player and caddie, seeing how sometimes Hovland has to hold the umbrella and sometimes caddie Shay Knight has to hold the umbrella, while often Knight has to clean the ball.

Fans leave the course after play was suspended for the day. (Mark Baker/AP)

“I hit a 3-iron into 18,” Scott said, “and I only had 186 to the front.”

“And then even [par-5] 15,” Seamus Power said, “I mean, I hit a really good tee shot, and you’re not even sniffing thinking about going for it.”

Mackenzie Hughes noted “how it felt like a different sport today.”

“Yeah,” 2019 British Open champion Shane Lowry said, “walking the seventh hole [Friday] it was like the hottest. It was unbelievably warm. Then you’re out this morning and it’s freezing. So it’s interesting. It’s mad how the weather can change here.”

In the midst of it all, 1992 champion Fred Couples became the oldest man to make a Masters cut, setting that bar at 63 years six months and five days. He finished a 74 atop his opening 71 to stand at 1 over, professed his love for the place and said: “Am I going to look thrilled to play 18 holes in this, this afternoon? No. I’m a wimp. I’m an old wimp. I’m an old wimp, but I’m excited to play. And I don’t wear gloves.”

Over his next nine holes, Nos. 10 to 18, his four bogeys and one birdie (on No. 13) landed him back at 4 over even while everyone understood as everyone went home.

Meanwhile, everyone reminisced in the rain about the spectacle of the fallen tree near Nos. 16 and 17 on Friday — mostly about the sound of the thing. Said 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, “It sounded like a grandstand fell over or something.” Said Power, “We were walking up [the 13th] fairway, and we heard, like, the screams, and it sounded like a grandstand to us, which was really strange.” And 1987 champion Larry Mize, who was nearby on the right side of No. 17 for the topple, called the sound “tremendous” and said, “You hear a branch, and all of a sudden I heard that, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what was that?’ ”

The clubhouse lead through Saturday went to the weather. Mize, 64 and departing after his 79-80 led to a missed cut, answered a question about maybe wishing to play a third round with “No, I’m good, I’m good.”

Tiger Woods withdraws from the Masters early Sunday morning

By Cindy Boren

Poor weather and the hilly Augusta National course proved too much for Tiger Woods, attempting to play despite obvious pain and discomfort in his surgically repaired right leg. On Sunday morning, the Masters announced that he had withdrawn from the tournament about an hour before the weather-delayed third round was set to resume.

Woods made the cut for a 23rd straight time, equaling the Masters record. But he was 9 over par when play was halted Saturday, three shots worse than any of the other 53 players who made the cut, and was noticeably limping. On Sunday morning, he attributed his withdrawal to plantar fasciitis.

Headed into the week, Woods’s caddie Joe LaCava admitted that Woods was “pretty banged up. If it wasn’t Augusta he probably wouldn’t be playing. … He still has the power, the swing speed, the shots and the length to contend. The injury is devastating, but if he could take a cart he could contend tomorrow.”

Sunday at the 2023 Masters images

Parton wath as Jon Rahm putts on the No.1 green during the continuation of the third round of the 2023 Masters. | Logan Whitton/ Augusta National

Matthew Fitzpatrick plays from the No.13 fairway during the continuation of the third round of the 2023 Masters. | Logan Whitton/ Augusta National

Brooks Koepka reads the No.8 green during the continuation of the third round of the 2023 Masters. | Sam Greenwood/ Augusta National
Masters champion Jordan Spieth pitches to the No.9 green during the continuation of the third round of the 2023 Masters. | Charles Laberge/ Augusta National
Amateur Sam Bennett hit his tee shoot at No.12 during the continuation of the third round of the 2023 Masters. | Thomas Lovelock/ Augusta National
Viktor Hovland hits his tee shoot at No.12 during the continuation of the third round of the 2023 Masters. | Thomas Lovelock/ Augusta National

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