Dream Leaderboard Set for Sunday at 2015 Masters After Saturday's Star Surge

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Dream Leaderboard Set for Sunday at 2015 Masters After Saturday's Star Surge
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Rarely in sports do we have the opportunity to witness all that Sunday’s final round of the Masters will offer.

The men in the final three pairings have won a combined 24 majors and oh so much more.

Because this sport is kind to those in their 30s and 40s, we will see the greats of multiple generations overlap, all chasing golf’s most prestigious prize.

And it figures to be wickedly awesome, potentially heartbreaking and definitely history-making.

Will 21-year-old Jordan Spieth hang on and win, while also breaking Tiger Woods’ record four-round score of 270, or will Spieth crumble the way Rory McIlroy did at Augusta National in 2011, back when he too was in pursuit of his first major?

Will Phil Mickelson become only the fourth player to claim a fourth green jacket, joining Jack Nicklaus, Tiger and Arnold Palmer?

Will the final round give us a Mickelson-Woods showdown between the two best players of the last two decades, the head-to-head confrontation we feared we’d never see again when Tiger’s back and game kept breaking down in the last year?

Will Spieth stare down a McIlroy charge and serve notice that the game’s future isn’t in sole possession of the Northern Irishman?

Warren Little/Getty Images
Sunday's pairings will give fans a chance to see Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy go head-to-head.

Will Woods and McIlroy, paired together, rev up each other’s game to a boiling point that invites comparisons to Ali versus Frazier?

Or will Woods simply steal the show all by himself and complete a comeback that would be regarded as nothing short of miraculous?

He's certainly preparing himself for the task, telling Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press, "I'm going to have to put together a really special round of golf tomorrow. You never know around this golf course."

Just to be in this star-studded hunt after being away from competitive golf is as stunning as nearly anything Tiger has accomplished. To end Sunday wearing his fifth green jacket and first since 2005 would put him in the walking-on-water category.

Better yet, will all of those titanic names collide atop the leaderboard and wind up in golf’s most epic playoff ever?

Yes, the home stretch is packed with so many of the sport’s biggest names that it’s easy to forget that Justin Rose, paired with Spieth, was the 2013 U.S. Open champion.

That leaves poor Charley Hoffman, once famous only for having some of the longest hair on the PGA Tour, as the only one in the final three pairs with a weak pedigree.

Majors won by players in Masters' final 3 pairs
Tiger Woods 14
Phil Mickelson 5
Rory McIlroy 4
Justin Rose 1

PGA.com

Perhaps the only safe prediction is that the final round of the 2015 Masters is one that will be looked back on 10, 20 and 30 years from now as a fateful crossroads.

It’s a pity cell phones are outlawed on Augusta National’s grounds, because there will be thousands in the galleries on Sunday who will want to capture a picture of this dream leaderboard.

At the end of the day, don’t be surprised if it’s the most awe-inspiring one since Nicklaus, Palmer and Gary Player went 1-2-3 in 1965.

In Spieth, the curtain clearly is coming up on an amazing career as he readies to play in the Masters’ final pair for a second consecutive year.

With a four-stroke lead, the Texan controls his own destiny, but his double bogey on No. 17 Saturday showed there might be a soft spot or two in this young knight’s armor.

You wonder if he’ll go to bed feeling secure or instead wake up in a cold sweat, dreading the thought he’ll repeat McIlroy’s 80-stroke meltdown.

Yes, it was painful to watch Spieth clunk a pair of putts on No. 17. But that setback saved the outcome of this Masters from becoming a foregone conclusion, and it set the stage for record-setting ratings on CBS.

If Spieth falters at all, there are plenty of proven horses behind him, just champing at the bit for the chance to trample him into Augusta National’s turf.

Woods, for all of his woes of 2014 and early 2015, is amazingly back in touch with the muscle memory from his 14 major wins.

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
If Phil Mickelson's putter stays hot, he could win a fourth Masters.

The same can be said for Mickelson, whose 40-foot putt on No. 14 showed why this is his favorite course. His seven birdies Saturday were his most at the Masters since his final round in 2009.

And let’s not forget that McIlroy is still ready to rekindle what two weeks ago was the biggest storyline for this Masters—his pursuit of the career Grand Slam.

The final element that makes expectations for Sunday so tantalizing is Mother Nature's contribution.

Scoring opportunities have been abundant all week at Augusta National, and Sunday cheerily looms as another flawless day in golfing paradise. Seven players came in at 68 or better on Saturday, including Rose, who nullified having two bogeys in his first five holes with birdies on five of his last six.

Players are going to step into the first tee box knowing that scores in the mid-60s are within reach, and if they can get through the front nine in the low 30s, the pressure on Spieth will mount perhaps unbearably.

So miss this one at your own peril. It figures to be a finish for the ages.

 

Tom Weir covered several golf majors as a columnist for USA Today.

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