Fast-finishing Rose closes on record-breaking SpiethApril, 2015
Lead down to four after late wobble by American
Jordan Spieth continued his record-breaking exploits at Augusta – he now owns the 54-hole scoring record at 16 under – though the four-shot lead looks a little more brittle than it has done for the majority of the past three days.
The 21-year-old had only dropped one shot over the first two days and, though he saw a couple of shots dribble away at the 4th and 7th, he was still able to extend his overnight five-shot advantage with a flurry of birdies midway through the back nine.
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When he birdied the 16th, his third two of the day, he again looked set to make it something of a procession. But a fat pitch and three putts gave him his first double bogey of the week and a nervy finish, an iron flailed right from the middle of the fairway, was only saved by a brilliant up and down at the last.
He will be joined by Justin Rose in the final twoball who picked up an incredible seven shots in the final 12 holes. The former US Open champion looked out of sorts early on, mirroring his opening efforts on Friday, but he then pulled the round together and then added some garnish with five birdies in the closing six holes.
The highlights were a holed bunker shot at 16 and a 25-footer across the final green, his 19th birdie of the week.
Three-time champion Phil Mickelson, like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, threatened something very special with a hat-trick of birdies from the 2nd and he continued his march up the leaderboard with a 40-footer at the 16th, only to three putt the next. The 44-year-old will have to come from five back at -11 and he will line up with compatriot Charley Hoffman who finished his biggest day out with a birdie to get back into double figures.
“It could have been something seriously low today. I had it really going" – Tiger Woods
Woods, playing nine groups behind the leader, also had Augusta buzzing with a trio of birdies at 2, 3 and 4 and then missed very makeable putts at 6 and 7 before picking up another shot at the par-5 8th.
From the sublime he then slipped into ridiculous mode with a fifth birdie of the day at 13 when he combined to both drop-kick and snap hook his driver which deserved to disappear into the undergrowth, never to be seen again. Minutes later he was fist-pumping a 15-footer.
In technical terms he reverted to his old body pattern to hit a draw but with his new release pattern. In his own words “They don’t work.”
Despite a closing bogey his 68 was hisbest score in his last 11 rounds at Augusta and added another much-needed layer of confidence.
“It could have been something seriously low today,” Woods said. “I had it really going. All in all, if you probably look at it, it should have been about two shots better.
“Coming from where I came from and having to change my entire release pattern – that was tough. And people have no idea how hard it was to do that.
“To come back here and play a Major championship and to be in the mix – granted, I’ve got to shoot a low one, but at least I’ve given myself a chance.”
McIlroy is now up to a share of fifth with Woods having added a 68 which also could have been in the mid 60s. The Northern Irishman has had a run of nine holes in the 40s on each of his five visits – his front nine of 40 on Friday saw to it that that run would continue – but this promised something special after turning in 32 after making an eagle at the 2nd.
He then ticked off the par 5s but bogeys at 16 and 18 meant that he was home in level.
“I’m going to need something basically around 61, 62 to have a real chance. I’m not sure that’s going to happen but we’ll see,” he said afterwards.
He will now have to come from 10 shots back if he is to secure the career Grand Slam, something that he tried to play down.
“I wasn’t approaching it like I was trying to win the Grand Slam. I was approaching it like I was trying to win another golf tournament. So I don’t think it’s really had any impact on the way I’ve played this week.”