- Fourth-round tee times
- Masters leaderboard in full
- Bryson DeChambeau reaps bitter harvest from his colossal hubris
- Monumental effort catches up with Tiger Woods in third round as crowds given sight to savour
Greg Norman is persona non grata in certain sections of the golf world at the moment, but it would take a brave person who brings up his name in Scottie Scheffler’s company for reasons other than the Australian’s connections with the Saudi’s rebel circuit.
Because if world No 1 Scheffler is to lose this Masters then his capitulation will call to memory certain aspects of Norman’s meltdown in 1996.
Of course, the Great White Shark conceded a six-shot lead in the final round 26 years ago and Scheffler is “only” three ahead of Norman’s countryman Cam Smith. However, Scheffler will surely feel he is already in retreat.
After 11 holes of this third round, Scheffler had compiled his own half-a-dozen advantage and was apparently unstoppable. Not even watching playing partner Charl Schwartzel hole out from 136 yards for an eagle on the 10th seemed to faze the 25-year-old from Texas.
But by the time he signed for a 71 and a nine-under total he found his lead dramatically reduced. Smith’s 68 was the only sub-70 round on a cold, taxing day when the temperatures dipped to 10 degrees celsius and the gusts combined to make it treacherous.
Scheffler’s one-under round was anything but disastrous, but it could have been so much better. The player who has won three of his last five events to soar to the head of the rankings reached the turn in three-under and even after he bogeyed the 12th he bounced straight back with a birdie on the 13th. No matter. A blip. Nothing more.
Except bogeys on the 14th and the 15th – a three-putt on the latter – created the tension. Certainly Smith will sense it, particularly after Scheffler’s wild duckhook led to another bogey up the last.
“It was brutal today, but it’s not going to be as windy tomorrow and typically here on Sunday, especially the back nine, you can use plenty of greens to your advantage and have plenty of birdie opportunities,” Smith said.
Smith, 28, lifted The Players title last month, finished runner-up here two years ago, making history as the first Masters competitor to post four rounds in the 60s. The Brisbane brawler with the mullet is not the type to go quietly and at the very least has made this interesting. “The Players just means I can get it done when I’m up against the best guys in the world,” Smith said. “It’s a good feeling to have. It’s earned. It’s not given to you So I’m going to have to go out there tomorrow and play really good golf again, probably similar to today. Hopefully everything just falls into place. I can’t control what anyone else is going to do tomorrow. So yeah, just go out there and really focus on myself.”
Korean Sungjae Im (71) is on four-under and it is difficult to see anyone else challenging from outside this top three. Ireland’s Shane Lowry (73) is on two-under alongside Schwartzel (73). There are only seven players under par, with Danny Willett, the 2016 champion gallantly leading the British challenge on level par.
Alas, Tiger Woods will not be a factor. Six three-putts and a four putt derailed his pursuit of a Masters miracle here on Saturday. Finally and inevitably the rust caught up with the 46-year-old as he shot a 78, his highest ever score at Augusta.
On six-over, Woods now has no chance of a sixth green jacket to equal Jack Nicklauis’s record. That task is even beyond his far-reaching compass. Instead he will enter the final day trying to post the best score possible. Of that there can be no doubt.
However, if it was not for his putter, he would be playing for rather more in his first competitive appearance in 17 months.
In fairness, there were plenty of mini disasters occuring on these famous greens. Yet their severity did not excuse Woods’ capitulation on the par-four fifth. Woods hit a fine drive, but his approach came up short, leaving 65 feet for a birdie. He then missed an eight-footer for a par and a three-footer for a bogey.
It was the 1,661st hole he had played at the Masters and never had he hit four putts on one green before. He looked and sounded exhausted afterwards. It was a chilly day and that clearly worked to the disadvantage of a veteran with aching bones and a sore back.
Woods will return Sunday and only knows one way to approach it. “Never give up,” he said. ”Always chase your dreams. Everyday presents its own different challenges for all of us. I wake up and start to fight all over again. I just hope it’s a bit warmer”
This is Lee Westwood’s 22nd Masters and he said these temperatures were a first. “I’ve got my hand warmers,” he said, after a 73 put him on three-over and in the top 20. “I’ve never experienced weather like this round here. Yeah, it took some figuring out at times. It’s playing a little bit longer.”
Tommy Fleetwood had earlier shown what was possible with his 70 that took him to one-over and up from a tie for 38th into a tie for ninth. It puts the 31-year-old in position to record his best Augusta finish. Fleetwood has fallen to 47th in the world and this could be week to turn it all around.
“It’s great being out there when you are sort of in control and you’re getting the right side of the course, especially on a day like today,” Fleetwood said. “However, if you’re on the wrong side it’s going to be penal. It’s so hard to get it anywhere near the pin. I played amazing today.
“I mean, not saying I’m the best golfer in the word, but I played really, really well and I honestly seemed to be holing out all day. You know, I’m very happy to be done, to be fair. I’ll just watch guys come in. But I think most of all I’m just really pleased that I’m putting some good rounds of golf together and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Rory McIlroy is on the same mark after a 71 and although he needs something extremely special to become the sixth player in history to complete the career grand slam – joining Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan – he can feel satisfied with his Saturday efforts.
Tyrrell Hatton, however, was fuming. He managed to shoot a 79 containing three birdies. Three holes were to blame. The seventh (a double-bogey six), the 13th (a treble-bogey eight) and the 16th (a double-bogey five) cost him seven strokes. On nine over, there are only three behind out of the 52 players who made the cut.
Shane Lowry fails to take advantage of blustery conditions
By Tom Cary, Senior Sports Correspondent in Augusta
Shane Lowry said he was hoping for cold, blustery conditions on day three of the Masters. And he got his wish. Unfortunately for the wind whisperer from County Offaly, he was unable to take full advantage.
Lowry, whose heroics in the wind and rain at Royal Portrush three years ago saw him crowned Open champion, will begin Sunday’s final round of the 86th Masters in a tie for fourth place after shooting a one-over-par 73.
The Irishman briefly threatened to build up a head of steam on the front nine, birdieing the par-five second and the par-three sixth to move into second place overall behind American Scottie Scheffler. But three bogeys in his closing 10 holes – and a couple of choice expletives which were captured on camera – saw him lose ground.
It was frustrating for the 35-year-old who went to bed last night doing a wind dance. “This is where I think I thrive, in these kinds of conditions,” he had told reporters on Friday evening. But he is still within touching distance of the leaders, who looked a little more bunched following Scheffler’s woes on 18.
Lowry’s Olympic team-mate Rory McIlroy shot a 71 to end the day on over and in a share of ninth place. The Northern Irishman said he would target “a top 10 finish” in Sunday’s final round, which, if he achieves it, will be more than respectable.
Althoug when it comes to McIlroy, fans are always left wanting more. When you have four major wins on your CV by the age of 25, when you have been chasing a career grand slam for eight years, when you have a swing of which others can only dream, it is only natural. Whether that is fair or not is irrelevant. It is just a fact.
McIlroy knows it, which is why, despite putting together three solid rounds of 73-73-71, he does not look or sound totally happy out there.
“I played well,” he insisted. “It’s just hard to go very low out there. Anything under par is a good score. It’s blustery, and there are no easy birdies.
“I’ve hung in there as best as I could. It’s not really conditions favourable for going low and getting near to the leaders.”
In what has become an all-too-familiar tale where McIlroy is concerned, he left himself with too much to do.
McIlroy’s opening round, a one-over-par 73 on Thursday, was not a disaster by any stretch. It just was not quite good enough. The first-round scoring average of the last 20 Masters champions is 69.2, with 32 of the last 35 Masters champions shooting par or better in the first round. Since winning his last major title at the 2014 US PGA Championship, McIlroy is a combined 35 over par in the first round of majors.
McIlroy found the bunker with his opening tee shot at the first and failed to get out of it at the first attempt, catching the lip and ending up with an avoidable bogey. He recovered from that disappointment to post four birdies and two bogeys, and generally playing good solid golf in the conditions.
“The gusts are what makes it difficult,” he said. “The wind completely laid down on me on 12 and I hit it into that back bank like a lot of people are. But Sepp [Straka] hit just after me and the wind gets his, and balloons it up, and it clears Rae’s Creek. So, in the space of 30 seconds, two golf shots hit by two completely different strength of winds and two completely different results. So, it’s not just about judging the wind, but it’s also hitting the ball at the right time.”
It was a valid point. But McIlroy’s curse is that talking about wind and luck and playing solid golf just don’t cut it. When you have torn up golf courses and made the game look so easy, fans always want more.
Jordan Spieth, who had a similarly fast start to his career, winning three majors by the age of 24, suffers from a similar curse to McIlory. The Texan won his last major back in 2016 and has only one once on the PGA Tour since, his game and his swing now under constant scrutiny. Spieth missed the cut here and is watching the denouement to this Masters from his sofa.
McIlroy is at least still out there plugging away. Asked what his tactics would be for Sunday’s final round, with the leading duo so far out in front, he said he would try to go low without being daft.
“You’re just trying to go out and shoot the best score that you possibly can without being reckless and without taking on too much risk,” he said. “I’ll try to go out and do that tomorrow. I think I moved up a few places with that score today and just try to move up a few more tomorrow and try to get a top ten and move on.” A perfectly sensible gameplan. But when you are Rory McIlroy, it never quite feels enough.