McIlroy rues cruel ricochet that leaves him five back

He drilled a 5-iron into 30 feet and narrowly missed the eagle putt.

THE 2017 Masters Tournament begins today - here are the 10 leading candidates to win the green jacket.

Rahm, 22, won at Torrey Pines to reach Augusta and could become the first Masters debutante victor since 1979. That really does put into perspective what Johnson is going to be attempting this week-he has to match the Tiger Woods of 2006. Unlike that performance 20 years ago, Augusta National has a traffic jam atop the leaderboard that will likely take the entire weekend to untangle.

Sergio Garcia, of Spain, hits from a hill on the 13th hole during.

For Rose, who shot a 31 (!) on the second nine Saturday, this would be a bit of redemption for 2015 when he got boat raced by Spieth in the final round and finished runner up.

A host of big names-including second-ranked Rory McIlroy, reigning Olympic champion Justin Rose and past Masters winners Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth-lurk within five strokes, setting up a mouth-watering weekend showdown in calmer conditions.

"I've been in the lead for 36 holes and more than that, nearly all of today", he said, still smiling after the third round.

A second day of high winds left the top pack-all seeking a first major win -level on four-under par 140 through two rounds.

If he had sunk that putt, he would have been going into the final two rounds one under par instead of one over, a psychological advantage at least, if nothing more. "I've shot 66 in the last round and I shot 80 (in 2011 when starting with a four-shot lead)". He ballooned to a 75 with five bogeys in a six-hole stretch.

Hoffman acknowledged he was simply trying to make pars in the tricky conditions - gusts approached 40 miles per hour, flung hats off patrons' heads and sent egg-salad sandwich wrappers blowing across greens and fairways - so he wouldn't shoot himself out of the event.

"And at the same time, I've been on both sides of it now, and I like the winning side better", Spieth said.

"Obviously I would like to be deep in the red, but one under is pretty good".

Typical Masters. Typical Augusta National.

The decision seems to have paid off for the 2013 U.S. Open champion as he is in prime position to grab his second major title.

AGELESS COUPLES: Oh, and let's not forget ageless Fred Couples, who surged into contention a quarter-century after winning the green jacket.

It eventually was fixed, although that was of no concern to the 37-year-old Spaniard.

"You know we lost so I really don't care about that stat", he said.

"Just this week how I feel physically, mentally". The others were 50-year-old Steve Stricker and 58-year-old Larry Mize.

Willett took an 8 on the opening hole. The quadruple-bogey led to a 78 that kept him from returning for the weekend by a single stroke.

Day had been in no mood for a long fireside chat after bogeying the last hole late on Friday to find himself last in the field among those who made the halfway cut.

Arnie, of course, is Arnold Palmer, a four-time Masters champion whose death last June has occasioned memorials at almost every stop where golfers have gathered since. His putter, which has given him trouble through the years, has been a strength this week.

Couples saved his best for last as he stuffed a 171-yard approach shot at the par-4 18th hole to within 3 feet.

  • Julie Sanders