Jordan Spieth will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Masters, but the defending champion was left to rue a poor finish.
Windy conditions at Augusta National on Saturday made life tough for golf's best, and it was Spieth who once again stood tall while others wilted – until the 17th hole that is. The world number two finished bogey-double bogey to drop back to three-under, just one stroke clear of Smylie Kaufman.
Kaufman will join Spieth in the final pairing after carding a 69, the low round of the day. Two-time Masters winner Bernhard Langer rolled back the years as the 58-year-old shot a round of 70 to move to one-under where he is joined by Hideki Matsuyama who carded a 72.
World number one Jason Day is joined at level par by Jason Day and Danny Willett, while Rory McIlroy saw his title charge falter with a 77 that sees him drop back to two over.
For much of the day Spieth was scrambling, scrambling to maintain his hold on a testing Augusta course made even more challenging by strong wins. Luckily, scrambling is something the Texan does well.
A number of clutch putts ensured Spieth took the turn in 35, but his good work was undone by a double bogey at the 11th after a three-putt. He bounced back superbly with birdies at the 12th, 15th, and 16th though, stretching his lead out to four strokes at one point.
However, it all went array when a loose tee shot at the 17th was followed by a missed par putt. It was a similar story at the last, with Spieth finding the Augusta pines to the right from the tee, a well crafted escape shot gave him a shot at saving par, but the 22-year-old left his chip well short and could only make the uphill putt in two.
As a result, Kaufman sits one stroke back, just reward for the 24-year-old who birdied three of the last six holes to rocket up the leaderboard.
For Matsuyama it was a case of 'what might have been', with the Japanese ace bogeying the 16th and 17th to undo much of the good work that had seen him move to two-under for the day at that point.
It's Langer who provided perhaps the story of the day. The German won the last of his two Masters titles three months before Spieth was born but stands as a legitimate challenger to the 22-year-old's crown after a round of 70 that included six birdies and four bogeys, including a run of three birdies in a row from the 13th to the 15th.
Speaking after his round, Day, who was partnered with Langer, said that he was forced to "ground out" a round of level par 72, but while it wasn't always pretty from the world number one, a birdie putt from just inside 70 feet at the 14th was perhaps the shot of the round. Johnson and Willett both shot 72s to remain on even par after 54 holes.
Remarkably, McIlroy did not register a single birdie on the day. A late rally on Friday had vaulted McIlroy into contention, but the Ulsterman was unable to recreate that form on Saturday. A poor approach at the third resulted in his first bogey, with a three-putt at the seventh the cause of a second drop shot. A bogey-double bogey start to the back nine after a trip first to the pines and then the water ensured that the world number three's bid for a first green jacket seems some way off.
However, while Spieth remains at the top of the leaderboard, the seventh round running in which he has, the Texan's late errors mean that the field remains open; there may only be four players in the red, but there are many more still capable of winning on Sunday, particularly in conditions that are set to be easier for scoring.
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