Scheffler survives a wild, windy, cold day and leads the Masters by 3 points

Augusta, Ga. – The harsh cold and the unrelenting wind. The late Saturday afternoon lead at the Masters. All the elements were there for Scottie Scheffler to feel the pressure of winning his first major at Augusta National.

Scheffler never seemed worried until the final hole, and then only briefly.

His four-shot lead, his high level of confidence, Scheffler’s wild drive to the left of the 18th fairway into the trees didn’t bother him nearly as much as the sight of the spotter frantically poking around in the leaves, looking for the golf ball.

“We saw the guy with the flag, who always finds the balls kind of panicky,” said Scheffler. “I was like, ‘Oh crap. Wonder what’s going on?’ Luckily they found the ball. And then I was just trying to figure out how I was going to put it on the green.

Like everything else this week, Scheffler figured it out.

He took a one-shot penalty, dropped it on pine straw, and then ripped a 3-iron from 240 yards that hit the green and rolled just over the backside, giving him two putts for a bogey that felt a lot better .


Scheffler had a 1-under 71 – one of just nine points under par in the third round – giving him a three-stroke lead over Cameron Smith on Sunday.

Scheffler spent all day fending off the cold wind by slipping a vest over his layers of clothing after each shot at each hole. Perhaps his next wardrobe change will be a green jacket.

Smith had the low round at 68, the only player to break 70, giving himself another chance to win the Masters in his first start since winning The Players Championship. He was second to Dustin Johnson at Augusta two years ago.

“It should be a great fight tomorrow,” said Scheffler. “Obviously Cam is a great player and he has a fantastic short game and he’s winning big on The Players. We’re both in good form so I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge of playing with him tomorrow.”


Sungjae Im (71), also a 2020 Masters runner-up, was the only other player within five shots.

Tiger Woods wanted to find a way to get into the red and ended up at the Masters with his worst score ever, a 78, which will be remembered for his first four-putt at Augusta National. He also had four three-putts and was 16 strokes behind.

“You’d think I figured it out somewhere along the way, but it just didn’t happen,” he said.

On such a cold day — the wind chill was in the upper 40s for most of the day — perhaps this was a warmup for what to expect for Scheffler on Sunday at the Augusta National, usually the majors’ biggest theater, especially for those attending their seek first major .

The last player not to maintain a three-stroke or more lead before the finals was 21-year-old Rory McIlroy in 2011.

Scheffler looked like he thought he could turn this into a breakaway as he made his fourth birdie of the round on the par-5, extending his lead to six shots.


But then a shot from the front bunker hit the par 3 12 across the green. He rebounded with a birdie only to miss the monstrous mound guarding the back right pin for a bogey on the 14th and 3-putted the par-5 15 for another bogey.

Even after his best shot of the round, a 160-yard wedge that rode the wind right-to-left and settled 4 feet away for a birdie in 17th place, he ran into trouble off the tee and managed to limit the damage .

“You hate bogeying the last hole, but the way I bogeyed it certainly felt like a par,” he said.

Scheffler was 9-under 207.

Sunday will mark the first time since the last pairing by a key player from the top 10 in the world since the 2015 PGA Championship with Jason Day and Jordan Spieth.

Scheffler and Smith could also be the two hottest players in golf.

Scheffler has won three of his last five tournaments, all against some of the year’s strongest contenders, a run that has propelled the 25-year-old from Dallas to world No. 1.


Smith started the year by defeating former No. 1 player Jon Rahm with a record score in Kapalua. His most recent accomplishment was winning the second best thing after a major, The Players Championship, last month.

“It just means I can do it, I think, if I’m up against the best guys in the world. It’s a good feeling to have. It’s deserved. It will not be given to you,” Smith said. “So tomorrow I need to get out and play some really good golf again, probably similar to today. Hopefully everything just fits.”

Woods finished with Scheffler still comfortably ahead, and the five-time Masters Champion feels like he’s seen that before. The players are in top form all the time and it’s especially nice when this spring run comes with the Masters on the calendar.

Woods won back-to-back before his Masters win in 2001. Jordan Spieth won and was runner-up twice when he won his green jacket in 2015. Fred Couples won twice and was twice runner-up before his 1992 win at Augusta.


“We all wish we had that two, three month window where it gets hot and hopefully the majors fall somewhere in that window. We take care of that in those windows,” Woods said. “Scottie appears to be in that window right now.”

Charl Schwarzel, who won the Masters in 2011, was trying to keep up with Smith until he made three putts from about 8 feet for a bogey on the 16th and dropped another shot on the 17th, slipping to 73. He was at 2-under 214 along with Shane Lowry (73).

Justin Thomas (72) and Corey Conners (73) were the only other underperformers.


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Joel McCord

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