Masters: Scottie Scheffler leads at Augusta, Cameron Smith & Shane Lowry chasing

-9 S Scheffler (US); -6 C Smith (Aus); -4 I Sung-jae (Kor); -2 C Schwartzel (SA), S Lowry (Ire); -1 J Thomas (US), C Conners (Can); E D Willett (Eng)
Selected others: +1 T Fleetwood (Eng), R McIlroy (NI), C Morikawa (US), D Johnson (US); +2 H Matsuyama (Jpn); +3 L Westwood (Eng); +4 M Fitzpatrick (Eng); +6 R MacIntyre (Sco); +7 T Woods (US), J Rahm (Spa); +9 T Hatton (Eng)

World number one Scottie Scheffler remains in a good position to win his first major at the 2022 Masters, despite a bumpy back nine in Saturday’s third round giving hope to his rivals.

The 25-year-old American shot a one-under 71 – carding four bogeys in the final seven holes – to take a three-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round.

Australia’s Cameron Smith is the nearest challenger on six under.

Smith, 28, moved back into contention with a 68, the low round of the day.

Scheffler and world number six Smith – the first final pairing of top 10 players at a major since the 2015 PGA Championship – tee off at 19:40 BST on Sunday.

In 26 of the past 31 Masters, the champion has come from the final group.

South Korea’s Im Sung-jae, runner-up alongside Smith in 2020, is two shots further back on four under.

Ireland’s 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, who won the Green Jacket in 2011, are two under.

Five-time champion Tiger Woods dropped down the leaderboard after recording the worst Masters round of his career with a six-over 78 in chilly Augusta conditions.

England’s Danny Willett, who earned a shock win in 2016, is the best-placed player from the United Kingdom on level par.

The 34-year-old has struggled for form this year but knows his way around Augusta and hit 15 pars in a 73.

Fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood – whose 70 was only bettered by Smith – is on one over, alongside Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy who shot 71.

Scheffler maintains lead after ‘great escape’ on 18

After reaching top spot in the world rankings last month for the first time, Scheffler is aiming to crown his place as the dominant player in the men’s game with a maiden win at one of the four majors.

The US Ryder Cup star’s ascent has been swift. Three victories in his past five starts – the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Arnold Palmer Invitational and Phoenix Open – saw him overtake Spain’s Jon Rahm.

Scheffler has transferred that form to Augusta and held a commanding five-shot lead going into Saturday’s third round. History favoured him as four of the five previous players with the same lead ended up claiming victory.

In only his third Masters, Scheffler extended his advantage to six shots with four birdies and a bogey on the front nine.

Always unruffled and rarely showing emotion, Scheffler’s calm demeanour is one of the key attributes in his recent success.

He also possesses a strong all-round technical game and combining the two facets on Saturday initially seemed to hint at a procession towards victory.

However, those wanting to see an exciting contest on Sunday had their hopes raised when things turned for Scheffler on the back nine.

The lead was reduced to three shots after bogeys on 12, 14 and 15, then another when he scrambled on the 18th after a wild drive into the trees.

Finding his ball at the side of a bush, Scheffler had to take a one-shot penalty drop but rescued the situation with a stunning iron to the back of the green.

“I feel great – I definitely played some nice golf today. I made a few errors I haven’t made in the last few days but to still get around in under par in the conditions today is a pretty nice round,” Scheffler told Sky Sports.

“I was fortunate on the 18th that it was on the side of that bush where I could take an unplayable and get out of there.

“I was lucky to play a great shot on to the green and play a nice up and down.”

Smith puts himself back into contention

Cameron Smith
In-form Cameron Smith, who is second behind Scheffler on the PGA Tour this season, has three top-10 finishes in his past four Masters appearances

Smith, runner-up at the 2020 Masters, is aiming for a rare double after winning the recent Players Championship at Sawgrass.

Although a bogey on the par-three 16th checked his progress, a round containing six birdies was enough to ensure he will go out in Sunday’s final group with Scheffler.

“It was tough conditions again. The greens are starting to firm up. It got really spicy out there. I think today’s round was better than the first,” said Smith, who shot 68 on Thursday and 74 on Friday.

Schwartzel, 37, has shown little form recently – missing the cut in each of his past six starts on the PGA Tour – but revealed on Friday he had watched footage of his previous Augusta victory to act as inspiration this week.

Playing alongside Scheffler in the final grouping, Schwartzel was largely unable to match the heights of his rival but did create the day’s most eye-catching moment when he holed out from 136 yards for an eagle on the 10th.

Woods laments ‘awful’ putting as he drops down leaderboard

Away from the battle for the Green Jacket, the astonishing comeback of Woods continued to be the major focus of attention at Augusta.

However, the reality of playing 72 holes on the hilly Augusta terrain began to bite as he walked off with a 78.

Woods, 46, surprised many people by making the weekend cut in his first competitive appearance since suffering life-threatening injuries in a car crash 14 months ago.

After crashing while speeding in Los Angeles, the former world number one feared his right leg would have to be amputated and few expected him to be able to resume his golf career.

Woods shot a 71 on Thursday and a 74 on Friday, but faded on Saturday as he dropped down the leaderboard.

Poor putting was the major problem for Woods. A four-putt on the fifth was the nadir, with three-putts at 16, 17 and 18 ending his round on a sour note.

“I’m not where I wanted to be. I need to shoot a low one tomorrow, I would really like to shoot something in the 60s and come out here on a positive note,” Woods said.

“Today wasn’t a very good day. I didn’t really hit it that bad but I putted awful.

“Four three-putts and a four-putt – that was just awful. I don’t think I’ve had many days, if any days, like that.”

McIlroy improves but remains out of contention

Former world number one McIlroy has targeted a seventh top-10 finish at Augusta after carding his lowest score of the week.

The 32-year-old’s 71 moved him to one over for the tournament, following two rounds of 73 on Thursday and Friday.

While it will surely not be enough to mount a challenge on Sunday, four-time major winner McIlroy has taken lots of positives from the week – even though his eight-year wait to complete the career Grand Slam goes on.

“I played well, it’s just hard to go very low out there,” said McIlroy, who won the 2014 Open, 2011 US Open, and two US PGA Championships in 2012 and 2014.

“It’s been a tough couple of days and I’ve just sort of hung in there as best as I could.”

England’s Lee Westwood is three over after a 73, while compatriot Matt Fitzpatrick hit 76 to drop to four over.

Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre is six over for the tournament after also carding a 76.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton slid down to nine over with a 79, which is his worst Masters score since the opening round of his debut in 2017.

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