Scottie Scheffler remains on course for his first major win at 86th Masters

Scottie Scheffler remained on course to underline his status as world number one by claiming a first major title in the 86th Masters.

Scheffler took a three-shot lead into the final round and had increased his advantage to four over playing partner Cameron Smith after a highly-eventful front nine in perfect scoring conditions at Augusta National.

Smith struck an early blow with a birdie from 12 feet at the first, where Scheffler pulled his drive into the trees and did well to save par after firing his second shot over the green.

Smith also two-putted from long range to birdie the par-five second and with Scheffler unable to get up and down from a greenside bunker, the gap was down to a single stroke.

The leading duo both hit poor tee shots on the third and failed to find the green in two, but Scheffler amazingly chipped in for birdie and Smith failed to save his par.

Smith also dropped a shot on the difficult par-three fourth hole before both players birdied the seventh to keep a charging Rory McIlroy at bay.

McIlroy had birdied the first and drove the green on the third to set up another, perhaps fuelled by missing out on the par-five second after hitting a 376-yard drive but then pushing his approach into a bunker.

The four-time major winner, who needs to win the Masters to complete a career grand slam, also picked up shots on the seventh and eighth before missing another good chance on the ninth, but swiftly made amends by chipping in from the back of the green on the 10th.

Shane Lowry’s chances of mounting a title challenge had effectively disappeared when he ran up a triple-bogey six on the fourth, the former Open champion carving his tee shot into the trees and hitting his third into a bunker following a penalty drop.

To his credit, Lowry fought back to birdie the sixth, eighth and ninth to reach the turn in 35.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods waves to spectators on the 18th green after his final round at the Masters (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods was completing a second consecutive 78 as the final group got their rounds under way, but admitted just playing this week was one of the greatest achievements of his career following the injuries he suffered in an horrific car crash 14 months ago.

“For not winning an event, yes. Yes, without a doubt,” Woods said.

“I don’t think people really understand. The people who are close to me understand. They’ve seen it. Some of the players who are close to me have seen it and have seen some of the pictures and the things that I have had to endure.

“They appreciate it probably more than anyone else because they know what it takes to do this out here at this level.”

Woods said he was unsure whether he would play next month’s US PGA Championship at Southern Hills, but that he would contest the 150th Open Championship in July at St Andrews, scene of two of his Open victories in 2000 and 2005.