Sunday’s Masters Plan: End the Third Round, Play the Fourth, Crown a Winner. Maybe Dry Out, Too.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Sometime on Sunday evening — weather permitting, because everything during this Masters Tournament seems to be like that — Brooks Koepka or Jon Rahm or one of 52 other players will get to wear the jacket they actually want to during this trip to Augusta National Golf Club.It’s green.Saturday’s weather threw the tournament into carefully managed havoc, with the third round scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Eastern on Sunday. Koepka, Rahm and Sam Bennett were to try to finish the seventh hole, which they were playing in the 3 p.m. hour on Saturday when conditions became too poor to continue. If all goes according to Augusta National’s plan, the final round will tee off at 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, with the 54 players paired up and playing from the first and 10th tees.Augusta National, seeking to avoid its first Monday Masters finish since 1983, used a similar approach in 2019’s fourth round, when weather led groups of three to start from two tees.Tee times, of course, are only part of Augusta’s weather war plan. The club also has a highly sophisticated, sort-of-secret weapon: a vast, subterranean system known as SubAir that draws moisture away from the golf course’s greens and fairways. The system has many functions, including pumping fresh air to assist with the root structure of the grass. But when heavy rainfall strikes, it can siphon rainwater away from the central areas of the course to places on the property that are more likely to be out of play.Players love the SubAir system because it can keep the speed of a course’s devilish greens consistent despite a downpour, as well as make fairways drier, which leads to harder landing surfaces and longer drives off the tee. The system emits a low hum, a sound the top players have come to appreciate.“They just turn it on,” Viktor Hovland marveled last year, “and overnight it’s a completely different golf course.”Fred Couples — yes, 63-year-old Fred Couples — made the cut.Let’s be honest: It is virtually certain that Fred Couples will not win the Masters this year. He might even finish last, or close to it. But Fred Couples, the 1992 champion, is still in the field, which is more than some of his (much) younger counterparts can say.At 63, he is the oldest player ever to make the Masters cut.“There really isn’t a secret,” Couples said. “Everyone loves this place. That doesn’t mean you’re going to play well. If I hit it really solid, I’m a good iron player.”Couples, who has lifetime playing privileges at the Masters thanks to his 1992 win, last played the third and fourth rounds in 2018, when he finished in a tie for 38th. His last top-10 finish came in 2010, when he placed sixth.“I am excited to make the cut,” he said. “That’s why I come here. The last four years have been really mediocre golf — maybe one year I was semi-close to making the cut — but that’s my objective, and I did it. It’s not like, ‘Ha, ha, ha. Now I can screw around and play 36 holes for fun.’ I’m going to try and compete. Play a good pairing with some younger guys and watch them play.”Indeed, he knows he will compete only so much. He is fine with that.“I can’t compete with Viktor Hovland or Jon Rahm or anybody, but I can compete with myself, and that’s really why I come,” he said.A few notable scores so far in the interrupted third round.There is still plenty of third-round golf to play, but the round has not delivered as much of the movement that players want: Only 11 improved their scores. Three — Patrick Cantlay, Matt Fitzpatrick and Sungjae Im — picked up three strokes. Scottie Scheffler, the defending champion, improved by two, and Koepka brightened his score by one.Phil Mickelson remains at four under par for the tournament after bogeying two of the last three holes before play was suspended on Saturday. Justin Rose started the round at four under, got to six under and was back to four under when everyone headed indoors.Dustin Johnson, who won the tournament in 2020 with the lowest score in the competition’s history, is six over for the round, putting him in a tie for 51st at five over.

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