Adam Scott will head into the final round of the 81st Masters Tournament with a strong chance of adding a second green jacket to his wardrobe.
The Queenslander carded his second consecutive round of 69 to move to three under and will make his run at the title from just three strokes adrift of the lead.
England’s Justin Rose fired the low round of day, a five under 67, to set the 54-hole lead at six under. The 2013 US Open Champion ignited his claim for a green jacket with five birdies in the final seven holes of the round.
He was joined a short time later by fellow Ryder Cup player Sergio Garcia, who is bidding to win his first major championship in his 74th grand slam start. The Spaniard signed for a 70, his third sub-par round of the tournament.
Also looking to win his first major is Rickie Fowler (71), who is one stroke from the lead at five under, with a trio of fellow Americans – Jordan Spieth, Ryan Moore and Charley Hoffman – a shot further back at four under.
Then there is Scott, who has fought his way back into this tournament after opening with a windswept 75 on Thursday to be 10 shots from the lead, to now be only three.
“Three (strokes)? That's plenty close,” Scott said. “I think I was two when I won.
RIGHT: From tee-to-green, there have been few better than Adam Scott through three rounds. PHOTO: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
“It's just the great players in front, and in conditions like this, if they're like this again tomorrow it's going to be hard, because you're going to have to make it happen.
“I'm just going to need the round of the year for me tomorrow.”
The 2013 Masters Champion is playing better than he has in a long time. His work from tee-to-green has been outstanding over the past two days, which has given him plenty of birdie opportunities. He started to convert those chances today but, more importantly, there were no destructive three putts.
“I putted beautifully today,” he said. “A couple of my good putts somehow didn't drop and I better keep doing the same thing and tomorrow roll them all in.
“And if I can shoot 66 or 65, that's really possible out there, it’ll give me a chance.
“When you feel quite close to the lead it seems like that could just flip with a birdie and a bogey. I'm going to have to lean on my ball‑striking tomorrow, and hit it a couple of feet closer on a few holes to give me realistic chances a bit more often.”
Scott believes being a past Masters Champion, knowing what is required to get the job done on Sunday afternoon at Augusta, will certainly be to his advantage.
“Well, I firmly believe that the past champions here develop a level of comfort,” he said.
“Whether it's guys who are currently trying to play and win … Fred Couples manages to smooth it around here every year, and play well at 57.
“ And Jordan Spieth is a huge threat to this tournament, certainly one guy I’ll look at immediately tomorrow.
“I think the pedigree in front of me is good. And I know with conditions like this, three or four of the guys are going to have good scores tomorrow.
“But it's going to be hard for them to go out and shoot 66, 65. If they do, they deserve to win because they're also playing with the lead. That’s not easy to do, it seems, these days, to protect that lead.
“That's where I have a little advantage to sneak up on them on the front nine, and then I only have to deal with nine holes of pressure.
Earlier in the day, World No.3 Jason Day carded a three under 69 to leapfrog more than 20 spots up the leaderboard. He ended the third round on three over and will start the final day nine shots behind Rose and Garcia.
The Queenslander was the first player out for the third round, playing alongside Augusta National member Jeff Knox, who acted as his marker. Day said he was inspired to play well so he beat Knox, who had bettered Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy when called upon to mark their cards in recent years. Knox also holds the Augusta National course record of 61 made from the members tees.
“I just didn't want Jeff to beat me, right,” Day smiled. “I heard that he beat Rory.
“He (Jeff) said he was nervous on the 1st tee and I'm like, in my head I'm like, I'm kind of nervous because I don't want to let my marker beat me.
“So, it was kind of neck and neck. I bogeyed the 2nd hole and he parred it and I kind of had a little 1‑up lead there for a bit, so I'm glad I ended up carrying out the back side.”
The 29-year-old finished his round nearly an hour before the final group was called to the 1st tee. He says he will need an exceptional final round to get into contention, and then it might be a case of wait and see.
“I’ve got to shoot a really good one tomorrow, but once again, anything can happen on a Sunday at Augusta,” Day said.
“Guys can either melt down or guys can come from behind and win big.
“So just got to try and do the best job I can and hopefully if I can put everything together give it a good shot. The first two days kind of put me out of it and today was a good round to get myself kind of back to good form.”
Day hit one of the gutsiest shots of the day when hitting from behind trees on the par-5 15th hole. Coming off three consecutive birdies, he drove long but was forced to thread his approach from 210 yards, through a small gap in the canopy of tall pines. He did so beautifully, and was left with an eagle attempt from 30 feet.
“Momentum is huge in this game,” Day said. “I was coming off the back end of three birdies and feeling pretty good and there was a gap, not a very big gap, but I just felt like I was on the good end of the momentum side and I just said that I'm just going to go for it.
“Hit it in that quarter clean out of there and I hit a nice shot through the trees and ended up birdieing.
“So momentum is huge in a game like this, so obviously for me I'm way behind, I need to keep pressing to try and get myself a chance at getting up somewhere near a decent position going into Sunday.”
Victoria’s Marc Leishman had an afternoon to forget, shooting six over on the back nine to drop well out of contention with a 78.
Having birdied the 9th to get back to three over and within seven of the lead, he made four pars in a row before his troubles began. A three-putt bogey on 14, was followed by a triple bogey eight on the 15th when he found the water short of the putting surface twice. He walked to the 16th tee with his cap over his face, knowing whatever chance he had of contending on Sunday was gone.
Curtis Luck’s bid to win low amateur honours remains alive despite shooting a three over 75, when leaves him at nine over for the tournament. The 20-year-old West Australian is four strokes behind leading amateur Stewart Hagestad, who carded a third round 74.