AUGUSTA, Ga. – Forget Moving Day, at Augusta National third rounds have evolved into Survival Saturday.
It hasn’t always been this way. There was a time when Saturday was – like most Saturday’s in professional golf – the day to go low, but in recent years Day 3 has become more of a grind than a good opportunity to close on the leaders.
“Set up wise, you’ve got Thursday and Friday and then, boom. You’ve got trickier pins on Saturday heading toward the finishing line. I’m sure that’s a strategic move to set up the golf course harder and then ease off on Sunday,” Henrik Stenson said.
Saturday’s scoring average has been higher than Sunday’s in eight out of the last 10 Masters, including last year’s 73.85 Round 3 average which was nearly a stroke-and-a-half higher than Round 4.
There was a time when players viewed Saturday as a scoring opportunity, like back in 1986 when Nick Price scorched the layout with a third-round record 63 on his way to a fifth-place finish. By comparison, the winner’s Round-3 scoring average the last decade is 69.2, which is solid but hardly what one would expect from an eventual champion.
Fred Couples, who is tied for seventh place through two rounds, knows better than most the Saturday sting. Last year he entered the third round tied for second and played his way out of the event with a Saturday 77, and in 2011 he was tied for the lead only to post a 75 on Day 3.
“Maybe since (Augusta National chairman Billy Payne) has been setting it up there is a difference,” Couples said. “You go out there and pins aren’t accessible and they seem to set it up for less scoring.”