Scottie Scheffler clings to 3-shot Masters lead over Cameron Smith
Scottie Scheffler posted a 1-under-par 71 on Saturday and watched his lead shrink to three shots during the third round of the Masters at Augusta, Ga.
The world No. 1 looked like he might run away with the tournament early in the round, but four bogeys over his second nine helped keep the drama intact heading into Sunday's final round.
Cameron Smith of Australia shot the low round of the day, a 4-under 68, to take control of second place at 6 under on a chilly afternoon and move within striking distance of the lead at Augusta National Golf Club.
Both Scheffler and Smith are aiming for their first career major title. Scheffler has been on a meteoric rise after starting 2022 without a PGA Tour win to his name. He now has won three of his past five tournaments and has his sights on the biggest victory yet. Smith is coming off a victory at The Players Championship last month.
Sungjae Im of South Korea is third at 4 under after carding a 1-under 71. Charl Schwartzel of South Africa and Shane Lowry of Ireland are tied for fourth at 2 under after both shot rounds of 73.
The only others still under par for the week are Justin Thomas (72) and Canada's Corey Conners (72), tied for sixth at 1 under.
Scheffler led by as many as six shots during his first nine, as he made four birdies, including a 17-foot birdie putt at the sixth. He had a bogey at the fourth hole.
Schwartzel, playing in the final pairing with Scheffler, had an eagle 2 at No. 10 by holing out from 136 yards. His approach landed just past the pin, and he watched as it slowly spun back to the cup. The highlight shot pushed him to 6 under, passing Smith for solo second.
A few groups ahead, Smith made his move with birdies at Nos. 10, 13 and 15. Smith tucked his approach at the par-5 15th to within 5 feet for a birdie, moving to 7 under.
Meanwhile, Scheffler landed in a bunker at the par-3 12th and couldn't save his par as he slipped to a three-shot lead. But Smith then hit the bunker off the tee at the par-3 16th and went on to a bogey.
Despite the late misstep, the world's No. 6 ranked player will partner with Scheffler in the final group Sunday.
Scheffler wrapped up Amen Corner with a short birdie putt at No. 13 to get back to 11 under, but he bogeyed the par-4 14th and par-5 15th, three-putting the latter.
His tee shot at No. 18 flew too far left and after an extended search for the ball, he had to take an unplayable lie. His third shot landed just over the green, leading to an up-and-down for bogey.
Im, who led the field after 18 holes, went 4 over through his first six holes but quietly came back with birdies at Nos. 8, 10, 12 and 15, the latter on a long putt from off the green. A long birdie putt at No. 17 put him back in third place.
After Schwartzel's eagle, he made four bogeys over his last eight holes to lose ground on the lead. Lowry made two birdies early but bogeyed Nos. 9, 13 and 17.
Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan started the day at 3 under but struggled to a 5-over 77. He was tied for 14th at 2 over.
Tiger Woods shot a 6-over 78, the highest score of his career at Augusta, to drop to 7 over and a tie for 41st. Woods carded double bogeys at the fifth and 18th holes and three-putted five times.
"I just could not get a feel for getting comfortable with the ball. Posture, feel, my right hand, my release, I just couldn't find it," said Woods, playing in his first official tournament since his car accident 14 months ago that left him needing multiple leg surgeries. "Even as many putts as I had, you'd think I'd have figured it out somewhere along the line, but it just didn't happen."
--Field Level Media