Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama four shots clear headed into final round at Augusta
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama produced a brilliant 65 to open up a four-shot lead after the weather-affected third round of the 85th Masters.
Following a 78-minute delay due to a thunderstorm, Matsuyama fired an eagle and four birdies to cover the back nine at Augusta National in just 30 shots and take a massive step towards his first major title.
The first bogey-free round of the week left Matsuyama on 11 under par, with halfway leader Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and Will Zalatoris all on seven under.
Aided by a hole-in-one on the sixth, Canada’s Corey Conners shot 68 to hold outright sixth place on six under, with 2015 champion Jordan Spieth on five under after a disappointing 72.
Rose held a one-shot lead at the halfway stage and moved three clear with birdies on the first two holes in round three, only to drop shots on the fourth and fifth after failing to get up and down from greenside bunkers on both holes.
The former US Open champion parred the sixth and had safely found the seventh green in regulation when the hooter sounded to call the players and spectators off the course due to an approaching thunderstorm.
When play resumed Matsuyama returned in simply inspired form, punching his second shot to the 11th underneath the branches of a pine tree to set up a birdie and also picking up a shot on the next to join Rose in the lead.
The 29-year-old was caught out by the slower, rain-softened greens when he three-putted the 13th for par, but then produced a stunning long-iron approach to the 15th to set up an eagle from just six feet.
Birdies on the 16th and 17th took Matsuyama further ahead and he completed the first bogey-free round of the week by any player with a superb up and down from over the 18th green.
Rose matched Matsuyama’s birdie on the 12th but dropped a shot on the 16th and had to settle for a second consecutive 72 following his brilliant opening 65.
Playing alongside Rose in the final group, Zalatoris returned a 71 as he bids to become the first player to win the Masters on their tournament debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
The 24-year-old has yet to win on the PGA Tour and was ranked outside the world’s top 2,000 a little over two years ago.
World number two Justin Thomas saw his hopes of a second major title disappear when he dumped his third shot to the 13th into Rae’s Creek and ran up a triple-bogey eight in a round of 75.
Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre continued to impress on his tournament debut, the left-hander carding a second successive 70 to reach two under par.
“I’m happy enough,” MacIntyre said. “I made a crazy mistake on the par-five 13th (three-putting for a bogey) but other than that I played solid stuff.
“It was tough early on, the wind started getting up and I was stood on the 14th tee and there was stuff falling off the trees on me. But once the storm came through it calmed it down and you could get at it.
“I’m not here just to make up the numbers. I’m here because I got here on merit, and I’m here to win a golf tournament. If I wasn’t trying to win this golf tournament, I’d be sitting at home with my feet up watching it.
“I’ve prepared for the last year; my goal was top 50 in order to get in this golf tournament because I love watching it so much. I’m here now, and I’m trying to win it.”
Garrick Higgo keen to maintain fine form after completing Canary Islands double
The 21-year-old left-hander’s winning total of 27 under par was just two shots outside the European Tour record.
Garrick Higgo completes Canary Islands double with Tenerife win
Higgo took a two-shot lead into the final round.
Richard Mansell and Calum Hill chasing in-form Garrick Higgo for Tenerife title
South African Higgo leads the way on 20 under par, two shots ahead of Englishman Mansell and three clear of Scot Hill.
Richie Ramsay remains in contention in Tenerife after second successive 65
Ramsay is two shots behind Spain’s Adri Arnaus.
Rory McIlroy surges up Wells Fargo Championship leaderboard with second-round 66
England’s Matt Wallace was also firmly in contention for a first PGA Tour title after adding a 67 to his opening 69 to reach six under.
Great Britain and Ireland captain Stuart Wilson ready for Walker Cup challenge
The United States are favourites to triumph in the biennial contest for the third time in succession at Seminole Golf Club in Florida.
Rhys Enoch two shots off Tenerife lead after stunning start ends in opening 65
Francesco Laporta leads the way at the Canary Islands Championship on nine under par.
Can Justin Thomas replicate his 2017 PGA Championship winning form at Quail Hollow this week?
The 28-year-old found success playing the course in August but hasn’t been able to repeat it in May.
Rory McIlroy goes back to happy hunting ground as he looks for a return to form
The former world number one is 15th in the rankings as he prepares for the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
Rory McIlroy ‘very much against’ breakaway golf circuit
The Northern Irishman said he had first been contacted about the idea in 2014.