One very big golfer was the center of attention coming into the Masters, but it’s been the smallest player in the field who’s made much more noise.
Although he stands at just 5-foot-7, Abraham Ancer has played himself into contention. The narrative coming into the week was centered around bombers and how they would use their length to bludgeon the course into submission. But on an uncharacteristically soft Augusta National, Ancer has been the antithesis to that theory.
While the likes of Dustin Johnson bomb the ball, Ancer plods. He’s routinely hit long irons and woods into greens that his competitors reach with ease, but his score hasn’t suffered because of it. At 12 under through three rounds, he’s squarely in contention to win in his Masters debut.
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That won’t be easy though, and not just because there hasn’t been a rookie winner since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. World No. 1 Johnson, who he and everyone else is chasing, looks borderline unstoppable at the moment. His second 65 of the week on Saturday opened his lead to four, slipping one arm in the green jacket in the process.
But that doesn’t mean Ancer’s Masters hopes have been dashed. Greg Norman famously squandered an even larger lead on Sunday in 1996. And Johnson hasn’t exactly been Tiger Woods when it comes to closing out 54-hole leads. He’s blown majors on Sundays every previous time he’s slept on a lead.
“I think he’s right where he wants to be,” Ancer said. “I mean, we know that we have to go low, and that’s it. It’s very simple. We have to just make a lot of birdies.”
The two will play in the same final-round grouping tomorrow, and they couldn’t be more different on the course. Johnson swaggers down the fairways, chasing bombs he rockets off the tee. Ancer strolls to his ball that comes to rest a much more relatable distance. Johnson plays everything cool — even leading the Masters. Ancer has no problem sharing his excitement (remember the Tiger Presidents Cup fiasco?). When his Masters invitation came in the mail last winter, Ancer immediately framed it and put it on his wall.
“It’s something that I dreamt since I was a little kid to play here,” Ancer said Thursday. “I was really, really excited to be here my first time ever.”
Wouldn’t we all react the same way? Ancer hits the ball in a relatable fashion, too. Although he’s long for recreational standards, his 297-yard average off the tee seems more attainable than the game Bryson DeChambeau plays.
On the 16th hole of his third round, Ancer had 167 yards to the flag. He played 7-iron. Relatable, right? The ball settled within five feet of the hole for an easy birdie. Not so relatable.
Johnson and Ancer may not share many similarities, but at Augusta they’ve looked equally relaxed. That’s to be expected from Johnson. For a Masters rookie, it comes as a bit of a surprise. Tomorrow won’t quite be David vs. Goliath, but in the golf world, it’s somewhat close. And Ancer has no problem accepting that.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Ancer said. “But you know whatever has to be done out there has to be pretty special.”