Scheffler survives wild, windy Masters day

Doug Ferguson |

Masters leader Scottie Scheffler is aiming for a fourth tournament victory in the past two months.
Masters leader Scottie Scheffler is aiming for a fourth tournament victory in the past two months.

Scottie Scheffler has spent all day fending off the cold wind at the Masters, slipping on a vest over his layers of clothing after every shot on every hole.

One more round and his next wardrobe change might be a green jacket.

Scheffler looked oblivious to the harsh conditions on Saturday, at one point stretching his lead to six shots.

He held on during a wild and windy ride along the back nine at Augusta National, escaping with bogey from the trees on the 18th for a one-under 71 and a three-shot lead over Cameron Smith.

Smith had the low round at 68, the only player to break 70, and gave himself another shot at winning the Masters in his first start since his victory in The Players Championship.

The Australian was a runner-up to Dustin Johnson two years ago.

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

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

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

On such a cold day perhaps this was a warm-up for what Scheffler can expect on Sunday at Augusta National, typically the greatest theatre of the majors, especially for those seeking their first major.

The last player who failed to hold a lead of three shots or more going into the final round was 21-year-old Rory McIlroy in 2011.

Scheffler appeared as though he might turn this into a runaway win when he made his fourth birdie of the round on the par-5 eighth and expanded his lead to six shots.

But he dropped shots regularly on the back nine, including a miraculous bogey on the 18th when the yanked his tee shot left into three trees, leaving him no choice but to take a penalty drop on the pine straw.

He smashed his approach from 240 yards onto the green and just over the back, leaving him two putts to keep his distance.

Scheffler was at nine-under 207 and already with his game face on.

“When I’m in the lead, I’m trying to stay in the lead and not really overthink things; just go out there and play golf,” he said. 

Sunday will be the first time since a final pairing at a major featured players from the top 10 in the world since the 2015 PGA Championship with Jason Day and Jordan Spieth.

Scheffler and Smith might be the two hottest players in golf, too.

Scheffler has won three of his past five tournaments, all against some of the strongest fields of the year, a run that has elevated the 25-year-old from Dallas to No.1 in the world.

Smith began the year by taking down the former No.1 player, Jon Rahm, with a record score to par at Kapalua. His latest feat was to win the next best thing to a major, The Players Championship, last month.

“I’m going to have to go out there tomorrow and play really good golf again, probably similar to today. Hopefully, everything just falls into place,” Smith said.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry and 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel are seven shots off the pace after matching rounds of 73.

Justin Thomas (72) and Corey Conners (73) were the only other players under par.

Tiger Woods had defied the odds to make a 22nd consecutive half-way cut in the year’s first major in his first top-level start since suffering severe leg injuries in a car accident 14 months ago.

But the chilly conditions did the 46-year-old’s injury-ravaged body no favours as he four-putted the fifth hole and three-putted six times in a third round of 78, eclipsing his previous highest score of 77 on his debut as an amateur in 1995.