Augusta, 08 April: The weather was a looming threat on Saturday. While there was a period of mild rain through the morning, it was barely enough to dampen the spirits of a rampant field in the 82nd edition of the Masters.
We are in the midst of an important third round and it is Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy making the big moves. Fowler soared on an eagle on the second to race to 7-under, gaining five strokes on Saturday through the front nine.
McIlroy was playing with the eagerness of a child as he marched from one hole to the next with a spring in his gait. He was 7-under through the seventh hole. Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman and Jordan Spieth remained rooted at their overnight scores of -9, -7 and -4 respectively.
Reed made a birdie at the 8th to go back to 10-under. McIlroy, moments before that made a spectacular eagle from off the green to reach up to 9-under. Spieth was 1-over for the day and down to 3-under through the 9th hole.
Matthew Fitzpatrick bounced back brilliantly with a 67 to get even with the course. After scores of 75 and 74 in the first two rounds, he made the cut on the edge. The Englishman made 14 of 18 greens in regulation and made all 14 fairways on Saturday.
The Masters was always destined for greatness, from the moment it was scripted into the books by Bobby Jones. The American was a celebrated hero and this was his event. In the early years that was enough to give the tournament a degree of eminence. Arnold Palmer embellished its stature with his heroics in the 1960s before Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods won it multiple times to enhance the perceived value of the Green Jacket.
The tournament has acquired significant glow in recent years with some stellar Sunday finishes. But the buzz this year, as the field assembled in Augusta has been noticeably greater.
The return of Tiger Woods and the form of a host of PGA TOUR winners has given fans hope for an intense edition of the Masters. The tournament began, seemingly wide open, with any of nearly twenty players capable of winning the title on Sunday.
The TV ratings have been climbing too. ESPN reported a 55% increase on day 2 ratings – earning 2.9, apparently more than double the figure in 2017. It is also more than 27 percent better than the ratings in 2016, when Jordan Spieth was still in command of the tournament.
Much of it is down to the presence of Tiger Woods, but it is also apparent that the quality of the field is also having an influence.
The rating on Friday was the highest since ESPN enjoyed a 3.3 in 2013. 2.9 is good enough though for the third highest rating, since ESPN completed the paperwork needed to air the Masters in 2008.