Spieth stumbles, still leads Masters by 4

Jordan Spieth stayed in command of the 79th Masters for most of the third round on Saturday despite hearing the roars as major champions stalked him, before stumbling a bit on the 17th hole.

The 21-year-old held a seven-stroke lead after making four birdies in five holes through No. 16, but missed the 17th green and made a double bogey 6.

However, he saved par on the last hole to shoot 2-under-par 70 and will take a four-shot lead over Justin Rose of England into the final round at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

“That was huge,” Spieth said of his five-foot par putt on the final hole after he missed the green before making a brilliant chip shot. “It was important to see one go in after the disappointment on 17. That putt going in should give me some momentum (heading in the final round).

“It was 24 hours from when I finished (on Friday) until I started today and that’s a long time to sit on the lead. Maybe I was a little anxious out there at times, but all in all it was pretty good.

“But there’s still a long way to go.”

Spieth’s 54-hole total of 200 broke the Masters record of 201 set in 1976 by Raymond Floyd and equaled by Tiger Woods in 1997. The former University of Texas golfer joined Woods, also in 1997, as the only players to reach 18-under in Masters history.

Rose holed a 20-foot downhill putt on the final hole for his fourth birdie in the last five holes to finish at 67 and will play with Spieth in the final round.

“That putt was really quick and I had to take the high line,” said Rose, who won the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion. “I made a good read and I thought I had a chance to make it, but that was something of a bonus.

“It will be good to be able to keep an eye on (Spieth in the final round). He’s obviously playing great.”

Phil Mickelson was second until a bogey on the 17th hole, but also posted a 70 thanks to a brilliant 4-under 32 on the front nine and was another stroke back in third, while Charley Hoffman was six behind in fourth after a 71 alongside Spieth.

“I saw the pin placements on the front nine and thought it was important to get off to a good start, and I was able to do that,” said Lefty, who has won the Masters three times, the last time in 2010.

“It was tougher on the back and I made a couple of bogeys, but playing late on the weekend in the Masters is the best. The golf course was stupendous; the greens were perfect. It was a great day to play.”

Rory McIlroy, who won the last two majors last year and can complete the Career Grand Slam by claiming the Green Jacket with a brilliant final round if Spieth fades, came in with a 68 and was 10 strokes back in a tie for fifth that included Woods, who also had a 68,

Woods, playing for the first time since February after his latest back injury, will be paired with McIlroy on Sunday.

“I had it going there, but I missed a couple of shorties (for birdie) on 6 and 7,” said Woods, who has won the Masters four times, but not since 2005. “Then I made a stupid bogey on 14. I could have been 6- or 7-under, but it all evens out.

“I’ll need a special round [Sunday]. It’s a tough course to come back on, but you never know, that’s the thing about this golf course. (Spieth) is playing Steady Eddie, and that’s all he has to do.”

Kevin Streelman, who won the Masters Par 3 Contest on Wednesday, carded a 70 and also was part of the group that was tied for fifth along with Kevin Na, who also had a 70, and Dustin Johnson, who struggled to a 73.

Defending champion Bubba Watson, trying to win at Augusta for the third time in four years, also had his problems en route to a 73 and was out of contention in a tie for 25th, 15 strokes back.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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