The Masters 2017

Good breaks keep Garcia in the fray

Improved putting helps Spaniard forget past 3rd-round woes, joins Rose at six-under 210

AUGUSTA (Georgia) • Sergio Garcia, winless in 73 prior Majors, shook off a Masters legacy of third-round setbacks on Saturday to match Rio Olympic champion Justin Rose for the lead entering the final round.

The Spaniard has gone a combined 38-over par to average 75 in 13 prior Masters third rounds. But this time he fired a two-under 70 to match the best of those rounds from 2002 to join England's Rose atop the leaderboard at six-under 210 after 54 holes.

"I'm glad I took the scoring average down a bit," said Garcia, the only golfer with three sub-par rounds this week.

"I think it's the kind of place that if you are trying to fight against it, it's going to beat you down. So you've just got to roll with it."

His third-round break was a four-iron second shot at the par-five 13th seemingly condemned to Rae's Creek that clung to the far bank. He chipped inches from the cup and made a birdie.

"Probably it's because my mentality has changed a little bit, but I've definitely had some good breaks throughout all three rounds - 13 obviously was one of them," he said.

The 37-year-old is one of the game's best ball strikers, but under pressure, his putter has been known to revolt.

On the front nine on Saturday, the Spaniard sank a 38-footer for birdie on the par-four fifth.

But he also faced four par putts between seven and nine feet, a distance from which he is in the bottom half of the 53-man field that remains.

He made the first three, but two-putted from seven feet for a bogey on the ninth to drop out of the lead. He also drained a nervy five-footer for bogey on No. 7.

Rose, the 2013 US Open winner, birdied five of the last seven holes to shoot 67 in ideal conditions.

"I liked my confidence on the greens. They were rolling perfectly," he said. "I just stayed with it and everything began to click into gear on the back nine.

"You've got to be aggressive at times, but this is a course where you've got to pick your moments. That game plan worked well for me today."

Eighth-ranked American Rickie Fowler was one stroke back in third after a 71.

Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion whose back-nine Sunday meltdown last year cost him a repeat crown, fired a 68 to share fourth on 212 with fellow Americans Ryan Moore and Charley Hoffman, a co-leader until finding the water at the par-three 16th for a double bogey.

Spieth birdied the par-three sixth hole, sunk a 20-foot putt at the eighth and produced a sumptuous iron shot into the ninth green to get to three under.

He safely negotiated Amen Corner and picked up further birdies at the par-five 13th and 15th holes before dropping his only shot of the day at the 16th.

"After the first round I couldn't ask for much better than this," said the 23-year-old, who recovered from an opening 75.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2017, with the headline 'Good breaks keep Garcia in the fray'. Print Edition | Subscribe