Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Spieth Holds onto Lead Rookie Kaufman, Veteran Langer in Contention Heading into Final Round

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Spieth Holds onto Lead Rookie Kaufman, Veteran Langer in Contention Heading into Final Round

Article excerpt

AUGUSTA, Ga. - It could have been so much easier for Jordan Spieth. He could have gone into the final round of the 80th Masters with the same four-shot lead he held 12 months ago when he tied the tournament scoring record and became the second-youngest player to win the green jacket.

Instead, with a finish sloppier than a meatball hoagie at Augusta National Golf Club, Spieth threw open the door to any number of potential Masters winners with two bad swings: A former junior competitor he would beat like a drum. Japan's brightest star. The No. 1 player in the world. Even a 58-year-old trying to conjure memories of a moment 30 years ago.

Spieth might have a hard time forgetting about what could have been when he goes into the final round of the Masters today in the same position as the previous two years - holding the 54-hole lead. But that is what he will need to focus on when he tries to become only the fourth defending champ to repeat as Masters champion.

"I just have to be absolutely throw this [round] away," Spieth said. "I have to understand, this is the position I want to be in after 54 holes and not think about the finish to this round."

Spieth is at 3-under 213 - 13 shots higher than his 54-hole record score a year ago - after a bogey-double bogey finish to his third round Saturday that offset a birdie binge through Amen Corner that seemingly put him in the same commanding position as last year.

But, just like that, his lead was whipped away in the 27 mph wind gusts that blew through Augusta National.

A bogey at No. 17 and a three-putt double bogey at No. 18 - each set up by two pushed tee shots - whittled what was a four-shot lead to just one on Masters rookie Smylie Kaufman and two on Bernhard Langer, 58, who will be trying to become the oldest major champion in golf history.

Langer is tied with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama at 215. They are the only four players under par after three wind-blown rounds at Augusta National.

"That was a really tough finish, to have four-shot lead and be in a similar position to last year to be where now it's really anyone's game," Spieth said. "That's hard to swallow."

Then he added, "That wasn't a fun couple holes to play."

Spieth shot 73, the second day in a row he posted an over-par score at the Masters after going 10 rounds in a row without one. But it looked as though his score would be so much better, especially after he made three birdies in a four-hole stretch, beginning at the par-3 12th. That flurry offset another double bogey, this one at No. 11, that cut his lead to one.

But he bogeyed No. 17 when he pushed his tee shot into the pines off the fairway, pitched short of the green and left his third shot 19 feet from the hole. It got even uglier at the par-4 18th when he again blocked his tee shot into the straw, punched his second shot 75 yards from the green and three-putted after pitching his third shot 49 feet from the pin. …

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