The 2021 Masters leaderboard tightened significantly on Moving Day, and with that tightening, a new leader emerged. Hideki Matsuyama, with multiple top-10 major finishes but no such victories to his name, finished 7 under in a tremendous round to sit atop the board at 11 under, four shots clear of 36-hole leader Justin Rose (-7).
Matsuyama was playing well all day, but after a weather delay of about an hour, he hit an eagle on 15 surrounded by a few birdies to jump atop a talented field. He also avoided disaster on 18 when his wedge out of the sand flew over the green by about 30 feet; Matsuyama saved par and his substantial lead. His 30 on the second nine ties the record for best such score by an international golfer in Masters history, and his bogey-free round was the first by any golfer in this tournament.
Jordan Spieth, who looked poised to make an early run with a birdie on the second hole, was up and down all afternoon, ultimately finishing where he started at 5 under. Justin Thomas, on the other hand, hit rock bottom. After scoring birdie on two of his first three holes, he imploded on the second nine with a triple bogey on No. 13 and bogeys on No. 11 and No. 14. He finished at 3 over for the round despite being one of the top two favorites to capture the green jacket at the start of the day.
Let’s take a look at the rest of the Masters leaderboard ahead of final-round action on Sunday.
Watch the 2021 Masters on Sunday with Masters Live as we follow the best golfers in the world throughout Augusta National with Featured Groups, check in at the famed Amen Corner and see leaders round the turn on holes 15 & 16. Watch live free on CBSSports.com and the CBS Sports App. Also available on Paramount+.
1. Hideki Matsuyama (-11): Currently carrying the second-longest active streak for rounds at or below par, Matsuyama is prepared to put an ending on a Masters story that began with him as the low amateur back in 2011. While other golfers struggled with Augusta National in tough scoring conditions, Hideki thrived and proved doubters wrong with a putter that has let him down in the past in majors. But before we start writing the storybook ending, that putter has to stay hot — or at least not be a liability — for 18 holes on Sunday. The hard and fast greens got significantly softer Saturday afternoon after rain in Augusta, and Matsuyama benefited more than anyone. What happens if they are firm and fast again Sunday?
T2. Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman, Will Zalatoris (-7): All in all, probably the right round for what Rose needed to do in order to stay in the hunt to win. A long par putt on 18 saved an over-par day and kept him at even for the second straight round. Now, due to Matsuyama’s incredible second nine, there’s more pressure to go low on Sunday after Matsuyama matched Rose’s Thursday performance for best round of the week. Paired with Matsuyama, Schauffele turned in another classic third round at a major championship, firing a 4-under 68 to move up the leaderboard into striking distance. The challenge will be, as it has been in the past during his small sample size of major contention, following up that strong Saturday with an equally strong Sunday as he has some strokes to make up in order to win. Schauffele has seven top 10s at majors since 2017.
Leishman was steady on Saturday, never falling below the 5 under score he had to start the round. An eagle on No. 15 gave him his 2 under for the day as he scored par on his final three holes. Zalatoris was paired with Rose and was similarly steady, finishing with par on his final three holes.
6. Corey Conners (-6): It was a great start for the 29-year-old Conners, who scored an eagle on No. 6 and three birdies on the first nine. He dropped two of those shots on the second nine but registered two birdies over his final five holes to get back in striking distance looking up on some significant talent atop the leaderboard.
7. Jordan Spieth (-5): The round was extremely Spieth-y in providing the kind of highlights and lowlights that make up the ride on the Jordan-coaster. Playing even par might have been a good enough score if he was only chasing Justin Rose, but the tournament has changed drastically since then thanks to Matsuyama’s incredible round. Spieth missed a (relatively) easy birdie putt on 18 that would have made him feel a bit better. Instead, he must turn on the jets Sunday as he has in the past at Augusta National. On a day when it looked like he was set to make a run for another green jacket, instead, he may not have done enough to truly be in contention now six shots back of the leader.