It's moving day at Augusta National, and Bubba Watson takes a three-shot lead into Saturday at the Masters. There's no Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, but the tournament and networks should be moderately enthused with the names on the first page of the leaderboard. There's Bubba, the 2012 champ and popular PGA star, and then his top two challengers -- defending champ Adam Scott and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, who's being hailed as the next great thing in golf.
Spieth and Scott will play together in the power pairing of the day, going out at 2:25 p.m. ET. Watson gets John Senden, another Aussie who got in the field less than a month ago with a win in Tampa, in the final tee time of the day at 2:45 p.m. Much like the first two days, Augusta National keeps with its tradition of very (relative to other tournaments) limited TV coverage, just four hours on Saturday on CBS. The good side of the Masters telecast tradition is that we get almost no commercials, just four minutes out of every hour interrupting the telecast.
Unlike the first two days, we know we'll get to see most of the leaders' rounds with Bubba and Senden going off just 15 minutes before the broadcast. Scott and Spieth should get plenty of love from the camera, and 54-year-old Fred Couples is also another huge story for the broadcast. The 1992 champ tees off at 2:15 p.m.
Watson was in total control on Friday, avoiding the crooked numbers that have sometimes plagued his creative but erratic style. The five straight birdies were two shy of a Masters record, and he used every part of the game to get it done on his way to the top of the leaderboard. There were perfectly cut drives bombed off the tee, approach shots stuck on top of the pin, chips delicately put in the right position, and putts bombed in from near and far. It was as good as Bubba can be, and no one will catch him if he's not making mistakes and rolling like that. He is, however, one for eight when sitting on the 36-hole lead of a tournament.
While the leaders won't be out until late in the afternoon, there will be multiple ways to watch golf from Augusta before then. The typical variety of streams will be up and running around Noon ET, starting again with the Amen Corner stream that covers action at 11, 12, and 13 -- Augusta's most famous stretch. More second nine coverage will be available at the par-5 15th and the par-3 16th at 12:30 p.m., when Rory McIlroy, who's the first player off on Saturday, should be reaching this portion of the course.
McIlroy tees off at 10:15 a.m, probably playing with noncompeting marker Jeff Knox, a local and ANGC member who often plays with the pros so they get the usual rhythm and pace they want. Rory was perhaps the most high-profile player in the field with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods now gone, but he needed to make a 5-foot putt in the gloaming late Friday night just to get through to the weekend. It's unlikely he becomes much of a factor, and will be done well before the TV broadcast comes on the air.
In addition to the five holes on the second nine, there will once again be two separate featured groups streams up and running at 12:30 p.m. They have yet to release which groups they will hone in on, but they should be spread across the tee sheet and feature different guys in different positions on the leaderboard.
This is just the warm-up for peak Nantz on Sunday, but the moving day at Augusta has traditionally brought fireworks, particularly at those birdie spots on the second nine. Last year, of course, the biggest drama of the day unfolded before anyone teed off, as we all waited for word on whether Tiger Woods would be disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard after unknowingly taking an illegal drop.
After hours of flip-flopping from the talking heads, and calls for Tiger to DQ himself, we sort of got back to golf on what was one of the wildest, most controversial days in Masters history. It's unlikely, actually impossible we get anything close to that this year but with Bubba, Adam, Spieth, and Freddie just some of the names in contention, there should be some birdies and implosions to make it interesting.
Here are all your media options for the third round from Augusta (all times ET):
Saturday's third round coverage
11 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Live Masters on the Range - CBS Sports Network
3 - 7 p.m.: Live third round coverage - CBS
11 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Live Masters on the Range
11:45 a.m. - 6 p.m.: Amen Corner live stream
12:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.: Nos. 15 and 16 live stream
12:30 p.m. - completion: Featured Group 1 and Featured Group 2 streams. Exact times TBD
2 p.m. - completion: Masters Radio - Masters.com