Garcia and Rose Lead Ahead of Special Masters Sunday at Augusta
Post by Golf Writer Kieran Clark
Justin Rose produced a sensational back-nine of 31 on Saturday to ascend into a tie for the lead with Sergio Garcia after the third round of the 81st Masters Tournament.
The Englishman, winner of the U.S. Open four years ago at Merion, made five birdies in his last seven holes to complete a five-under 67 that secured his place in the final pairing on Sunday alongside his Ryder Cup team-mate. Quietly remaining within touch of the lead throughout the week, the 36-year-old - winner of the Olympic Gold Medal last year - had progressed somewhat under the radar, despite retaining an excellent record at Augusta National.
12 months ago, Danny Willett became the first European to secure a green jacket this century, and Sergio Garcia will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Jose Maria Olazabal and the late great Seve Ballesteros - who would have turned 60 today. The Spaniard - playing in his 74th major championship - has yet to taste success in one of the game's four most prestigious events, having endured a career of heartbreak. However, the Spaniard took advantage of the two par fives on the second nine - making birdie on both - to shoot a round of 70 to remain at the summit of the leaderboard.
It wasn't Rickie Fowler's greatest display of ball striking, but the popular American's enviable talents on the greens were enough to see him scramble around the course in a one-under 71, seeing the 28-year-old positioned within just a shot of the leading pair. The Californian will enjoy the company of compatriot Jordan Spieth in the penultimate pairing, with the 2015 champion - who had control of the tournament with nine holes remaining last year - producing a remarkable display of determination and grit, underlining the mental qualities that have betrayed his age of just 23.
The Texan made a quadruple bogey nine on the 15th during the first round, but has since played the subsequent 39 holes in eight-under-par. No one has won the Masters having recorded more than a seven on their card, but this two-time major champion has proven himself to be of a different breed of golfer from most, and looks set to build on an extraordinary record in Georgia, having won and finished runner-up twice in three appearances at the legendary course.
Former U.S. Amateur champion, Ryan Moore has quietly compiled consecutive rounds of 69 and is tied with Spieth on four-under, as is Charley Hoffman, who had pulled ahead of the pack at one point on Saturday, but came unstuck with a double-bogey on the 16th, following a disastrous tee shot into the water. They may be two of the more unfancied contenders, but both are within two of the lead and are capable of springing a surprise on the favourites.
2013 winner Adam Scott is yet to find a magic touch with the putter, but yet finds himself within an ominous three shots of the top. Should the likeable Australian find form on the greens, he could be a significant threat to the leaders. The same can be said of Charl Schwartzel, another former champion who is at two-under following a brilliant 68. Six years removed from his thrilling triumph at Augusta, the South African is not to be discounted.
Lee Westwood and Thomas Pieters are five shots back at one-under, while Rory McIlroy was disappointed at missing a number of back-nine chances. The Northern Irishman - seeking the career grand slam - is six behind at level par, which is likely an insurmountable deficit, but we can expect fireworks from the four-time major champion today.
Tomorrow would've been Seve's 60th birthday...— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) April 8, 2017
He'd approve of the final pairing for tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/nlkfk2Ea4v
Boasting an impressive leaderboard and ideal scoring conditions expected, it has all the potential to be an especially memorable Sunday at the Masters. Many great dramas has played out at Augusta National over the past eight decades, and with the plotlines in place, we are set to exprience another as the quest for that green jacket reaches its climax.
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