Sunday at the Masters is finally here. It's shaping up to be another phenomenally beautiful day in Augusta, Ga., and potentially another great day of golf.
Saturday was hard to beat; there was electrifying shot-making — none more so than the back-to-back eagles (2 under par on a hole) by American Phil Mickelson on holes 13 and 14. He became just the third golfer in Masters' history to pull that off.
The roars that echoed around the Augusta National Golf Club were striking, considering it was a Saturday. Sunday's final round traditionally promises the most drama, as players let out all the stops in pursuit of winning the most famous golf tournament in the world.
The top of Sunday's leaderboard is what's called "fan friendly": full of big names that draw the most attention. Tournament leader Lee Westwood of England may not — yet — be a household name outside the golf world, but Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are.
Every player out there wants to win. But those top three have extra motivation. You won't hear about it in the official Masters media guide — you'll hear it from golf journalists and knowledgeable patrons walking the course. Here's a look at the three men and their extra motivation on what could be a memorable day.
He turns 37 in two weeks. He's been pushing his way to the top, and right now appears to be the time. Certainly Westwood's "window" will be open for several years, but he needs to prove Sunday what he hasn't so far: that he can finish a major in which he's contending. Westwood is ranked No. 4 in the world, and he's entered that dreaded category: "among the best players in the world without a major." Players in that category obviously can respond two ways — win and get out of it; or, like the increasingly sad story of Spain's Sergio Garcia, pass out of the category because you don't win a major and you're no longer considered among the best. Westwood has been getting close: three 3rd-place finishes in major tournaments. The toughest was last year's British Open, in which he led or shared the lead during most of the final round. But he bogeyed several of the final holes and dropped out of contention. Westwood needs to show that his burgeoning greatness includes the ability to "seal the deal."
"Lefty," as he's called, has proved his mettle, winning three majors: two Masters and one PGA Championship. His extra motivation is simple — a win here would buoy his spirits and those of his family. His wife, Amy, has breast cancer, and according to Phil, she's been having a hard time with her medications and is not doing as well as hoped. Long term, he says, the prognosis is good, but right now the day-to-day is tough. His family is with him in Augusta, but Amy, normally an effervescent presence at golf tournaments, hasn't been out to watch.
His motivation is a lot more complex. Obviously the most talented golfer in history still wants to break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships. Woods is at 14. But because of the events over the past five months, a Masters victory — and any victory going forward — becomes more significant as a balm. The sex scandal that shattered Woods' carefully crafted image of the past 13 years always will be part of the Tiger Woods story, but winning golf tournaments will help the scandal recede in people's minds. It has so far at the Masters, though the protected and strictly controlled environment of Augusta National is not the outside world. Woods has shown signs of the inner change he's promised in the scandal's aftermath. He's been interacting with spectators — patrons in Augusta-speak — smiling and waving. He even gave someone his golf glove during a round. But old habits die hard, too. His promise to respect the game more, to clean up his notorious outbursts and language? Still a work in progress.
And we haven't even talked about the other handful of players who might sneak up — on what Phil Mickelson predicts will be "a very exciting Sunday" at the Masters.