- Masters 36-hole leader Patrick Reed will have to battle tough conditions ahead on Moving Day. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – After two days of dry conditions and pleasant temperatures, the weather for Saturday’s third round of the Masters is expected to take a turn for the worse. Scattered showers in the morning, then heavy rain and possibly thunderstorms for the leaders in the afternoon.
Oh, and throw in wind gusts to 20 mph.
How much that will impact the leaderboard on Moving Day at Augusta National will be one of the intriguing storylines. Patrick Reed takes a two-shot lead over Marc Leishman, with several big names lurking dangerously close – guys such as Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are the next five chasers. Each is ranked among the top 15 in the world.
“Whatever the weather is for tomorrow, we’ve got to play in it,” world No. 1 Johnson said. “The tougher the better.”
Many players said Friday’s conditions were difficult due to swirling winds that created shot indecisions. The Round 2 scoring average of 74.563 was nearly a stroke higher than the first round, and just 10 of the 87 players in the field managed 70 or better, led by Reed’s 66.
Add torrential rain and brisk winds Saturday, and the difficulty level is expected to increase, even though greens should be more receptive.
“It could be a grind tomorrow,” said Stenson, solo third at 5 under. “This golf course is not going to give you any more margins just because the weather is bad. So hopefully the game plan we have and the knowledge we have can make us stay in the ballgame.”
“I don’t think really many of us have played in a windy kind of rainy condition,” added Rickie Fowler, in a six-way tie for eighth that also includes two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson. “There’s sometimes you get a little misty or the ground gets a little wet. But it also can benefit if it makes the greens a little bit easier. If they do get a little bit wet and they soften up, they can slow down a little bit, so there are some benefits to having that.
“But then you deal with the golf ball being wet and you’re dealing with more surface on the golf ball and the club face. Controlling the golf ball becomes tough into these greens when you’re trying to hit a two or three yard section. But, hey, like I said, we’ll see what it is, and go battle through it.”
Spieth, the first-round leader who fell back after a Friday 74, thinks the changeup in weather could play to his favor as he seeks a second green jacket. He won’t be surprised at having to play a few mud balls this weekend.
“You kind of have to be aware,” the 2015 champ said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve just got to be aware, and obviously it becomes a tactical golf course when the conditions get tougher or you’re presented with kind of tough breaks like that – and I think that’s advantage for me. I feel like I tactically play this golf course very well.”
As for the leader? The confident Reed considers bad weather a non-factor.
“I’m from Texas,” he explained. “It blows 40 and rains every day, it seems like. I’d say I like it when it’s challenging.”