Augusta, Ga. (AP) – Scotty Schaffler has spent the day at the Masters protecting herself from the cold wind, slipping on a vest over the layers of her clothing after each shot in the hole. A further round and her subsequent change of attire could be a green jacket.
Schaefler appeared to be unaware of the tough conditions on Saturday, extending his lead to six shots at one stage. He held a wild and windy ride along the Augusta National’s Back Nine, escaping with a bogey from a tree on the 18th for a 1-under 71 and a three-shot lead over Cameron Smith.
Smith was in the low round at 68, the only player to make 70 breaks and gave himself another shot to win the Masters in his first start after winning The Players Championship. He was runners-up to Dustin Johnson two years ago.
Sungjae Im (71), also runner-up in 2020, was the only other player in five shots.
Tiger Woods wanted to find a way to the red numbers and was injured with his worst score in the Masters, a 78 that will be remembered for his first four-putt at the Augusta National. He had four three-putts and 16 shots behind.
“You think I could have figured it out somewhere along the line, but it didn’t happen,” he said.
On such a cold day – most of the day was chilly in the late 40’s – it was probably a warmth that Schaefler expected on Sunday at Augusta National, usually the biggest theater for majors, especially for those looking for their first major.
Rory McIlroy, 21, was the last player to reach the final round and fail to hold a three-shot or more lead in 2011.
Schaefler thought he could have escaped it when he made his fourth birdie in the par-5 eighth round and extended his lead to six shots.
But then a shot from the bunker in front of par-3 12th went over the green. He bounced with a birdie only on the 14th to get a good back from the giant mound guarding the rear right pin for the bogie, and for the bogie he put three numbers in the 15th par-5 for another bogie.
Even after making his best shot of the round, going 4 feet for Birdie on the 17th, he got into big trouble on the 18th. He pushed his T-shot into the tree canopy and the curved branches, he had no choice but to take a penalty drop on the pine straw.
Brave as ever, he broke his gaze from 240 yards to the green and just behind, keeping him two putts to keep his distance.
Sheffler was 9-under 207.
Sunday will be the first time since the 2015 PGA Championship with Jason Day and Jordan Spieth a final pairing of one of the top 10 featured players in the world.
Schaefler and Smith may also be the two most popular golfers.
Schaefler has won three of his last five tournaments, all against some of the strongest pitches of the year, a run that has taken the 25-year-old from Dallas to No. 1 in the world.
Smith started the year with a record score for former No. 1 player, John Rahmke, in Kapalua. His latest feat was winning a major, the next best at the Players Championship last month.
“It means I can do it, I guess, when I play against the best boys in the world. It has a good feeling. It has been achieved. It was not given to you, “said Smith. “So I have to go there tomorrow and play really good golf again, maybe just like today. Hopefully, everything falls into place. “
Woods finished as Sheffler is still ahead in comfort, and the five-time Masters champion looks like he’s seen it before. Players hit peak form all the time, and it’s especially sweet when that run is in the spring with the Masters on the calendar.
Woods won back in 2001 before winning his Masters. Jordan Spith won and a pair of runner-ups ended in 2015 when he won his green jacket. Fred Couples won twice and was runner-up twice before 1992, winning in Augusta.
“We all hope we have that two, three month window when we get hot, and we hope the majors fall somewhere with that window. We take care of that window, “said Woods.” Scott seems to be in that window now. “
Charles Schwartzel, who won the Masters in 2011, was trying to keep up with Smith until he made a three-put from about 8 feet for the buggy on the 16th and fired another shot on the 17th, slipping into a 73. He was 2-under. 214 including Shane Lori (73).
Justin Thomas (72) and Corey Connors (73) were other players on par.