Scottie Scheffler, Masters leaders have up-and-down day while Tiger Woods falters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Because Tiger Woods has been at the center of the golf universe for more than a generation, how he goes, even now at 48, often is a harbinger of how men’s golf goes.

On Saturday at the Masters, with Tiger playing the worst round in a major in his life, the third round of the Masters turned into a roller coaster of mistakes and big breaks for the game’s young stars and future contenders.

When it was over, 2022 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler was in the lead all alone at 7-under, one stroke ahead of his fellow 27-year-old American Collin Morikawa, who was one-up on 33-year-old Max Homa, with the wildly inconsistent but always entertaining Bryson DeChambeau, 30, lurking at 3-under.

It’s a strong and youthful leaderboard of the present and future, but before we go there, let’s take care of the once-glorious past.

Scottie Scheffler tips his hat to patrons as he walks off the No. 18 green during the third round of the Masters Tournament.
Scottie Scheffler tips his hat to patrons as he walks off the No. 18 green during the third round of the Masters Tournament.

After playing himself into some semblance of a chance to reach the leaderboard over a grueling 23 holes Friday, Tiger’s body paid for it on Saturday when he shot 10-over par 82 and dropped 30 spots, from a tie for 22nd to a tie for 52nd.

He previously shot 80 or higher at two other majors: the 2015 U.S. Open (80 in the first round) and the 2002 British Open (81 in the third round).

“I didn't have a very good warmup session, and I kept it going all day today,” Woods said. “Just hit the ball in all the places that I know I shouldn't hit it, and I missed a lot of putts. Easy, makeable putts. I missed a lot of them.”

Asked if there was any moment that was worse than the others, Tiger replied, “All day.”

As the list of his successors jockeyed for position near the lead, ebbing and flowing on the rock-hard, “crusty” greens on a crystal clear, sun-drenched day, mistakes were definitely made. Scheffler reached 8-under par before bottoming out at 4-under eight holes later, only to claw his way back by becoming the only player to eagle the par-5 13th. He finished with a flourish, an 8-foot birdie putt on 18.

“I got off to the great start,” he said, “things got dicey in the middle and I just stayed patient.”

Was there anything that typified the difficulty of the third round more than DeChambeau setting up with a wedge for his third shot near the green on the par-5 15th but hitting it so poorly that it went the wrong way and trickled into the pond in front of the green? That’s how you end up with a double-bogey 7.

DeChambeau, an escapee to the Saudi-backed LIV tour who complains that he doesn’t get to play with all the big names anymore even though he’s the guy who left, was struggling to the finish, then magic struck.

On his third shot on 18, 77 yards away, his approach landed a few feet from the cup and then spun backward and dropped into the hole for a most improbable birdie.

He raised his arms in shock and triumph. That was Saturday’s final act, a lightning bolt that sent DeChambeau into Sunday with a chance, which is all anyone can ask for at this point.

The only moment that could have upstaged him was if Taylor Swift had been by the green to see it. Now that you mention it, word was she and Travis Kelce actually were at Augusta National Saturday, likely hiding out in one of the hospitality venues on the outskirts of the course.

With Tiger falling by the wayside, the Masters would be very fortunate indeed to have Taylor and Travis around this weekend. Imagine the roars.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Masters leaders have roller-coaster day as Tiger Woods struggles