Justin Rose posted the lowest round on Saturday with a five-under 67 to take a share of the lead with Sergio Garcia heading in to what is set up to be a thrilling final round at the Masters.
Rose birdied five of his last seven holes to gain the clubhouse lead, and was joined by fellow European Garcia – who holed a nervy final-hole par putt to ensure he made it in to the final pairing on Sunday ahead of Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth.
Before today, Garcia’s scoring average on Saturday at Augusta National was 75. In this year’s third-round he shot a 2-under-par 70 to put himself in serious contention to win his first (and astonishingly overdue) major title on a Sunday that would have been Seve’s 60th birthday.
“It was a good day, it didn’t feel particularly comfortable with my set-up early on but I found something and I worked with that and I tried to make sure I stayed as consistent as possible.” Garcia said after his round.
“I need to be extra patient and need to not lose my head and stay calm and make sure no matter what happens, win or lose, I need to keep going in the same direction because it feels good to me”
“It would be amazing (to win). It would be something that is difficult to describe but we still have one day to go. We will have to play hard again and hopefully we will have a good solid chance going in to the last four or five holes”
Meanwhile Olympic and past US Open Champion Rose, who began the day three back, equalled his lowest ever score at The Masters and is poised to improve upon his 2015 T2 finish at Augusta National thanks to an impressive run of birdies on the inward nine.
“It all happened for me on the last eight holes really and the patience I showed on the front nine was pretty key to doing well on the back nine,” Rose said.
“I had my head down. I knew I was creeping up on the players and then obviously that quick birdie-birdie finish to put me right up there and tied for the lead. It all seemed to happen really fast.”
Sitting just one shot adrift of the leaders is Rickie Fowler, who similarly to Garcia is still seeking his maiden major title. With a one-under-par 71, Fowler has put himself in prime position and will be playing alongside good friend and 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth in the penultimate pairing.
Fowler said: “I hit a lot of really good putts today that kept the round going. I’m pleased with it. I’m in a really good position for tomorrow and that’s all we could ask for Saturday at Augusta”
“It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to being in a good position so it’s going to be a good time. This is by far the best I’ve ever felt in a major, there’s no question about it”
And if there was any doubt that Jordan Spieth wouldn’t perform during at least one round of the Masters, it can now be put to rest. Spieth had a quadruple bogey on the 15th hole on Thursday, but two consecutive under-par rounds have left him two shots back of the leaders with compatriots Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.
Spieth, who has finished only second and first at Augusta National in his career, carded a four-under par 68 and heads in to his fourth Masters tied for fourth and in with a chance to over-come the demons of last year and win his second green jacket.
“I thought it was a really good round today,” Spieth said. “We made our goal which was to shoot four (under par) which was going to give us a chance tomorrow.”
"I’ve been coming from behind since the 15th on the first round all week and we’ve grinded it out to give ourselves a chance to win this tournament. It will be nice for a change not being at least tied for the lead or in the lead – I certainly would like that but it will be fun having a new experience coming from behind”
Also at four-under are Ryan Moore and Charley Hoffman, while 2013 Masters Champion Adam Scott is just a further shot back on three-under in solo seventh spot. Charley Hoffman held the advantage over the field for the majority of the third-round, briefly getting back to the seven-under-par total he achieved on Thursday to increase a three-shot lead.
However, after a bogey at the 14th Hoffman suffered a horror-show 16th hole – finding the water and carding a double bogey to drop back to four-under and two shots back of the leaders.
Rory McIlroy failed to get things going for a third consecutive round, and hasn’t improved on the tournament level-par position he held on Thursday.
Only ten players in total are under-par for the tournament, which includes last year's runner up Lee Westwood, rookie Thomas Pieters and three past champions (Spieth, Scott and Charl Schwartzel).