AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Justin Rose charged from behind on the back nine at Augusta National. Sergio Garcia received the kind of break that allowed him to wonder if maybe the golfing gods are finally on his side after all these years.
They wound up tied for the lead Saturday on a tense afternoon that set the stage for a Masters finale still up for grabs.
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As usual, that includes Jordan Spieth, two shots behind and in contention for the fourth straight year.
“Tomorrow is a huge day,” Rose said. “I have an opportunity. That’s all you want. But really, it starts on the back nine on Sunday. … You’re going to have to go out and play a good round of golf, and I think there’s going to be four or five guys pretty much with the same mindset.”
Rose could use another back nine like he had on Saturday.
He was five shots behind until a tee shot to the left pin on No. 12 landed 5 feet from the cup, starting his run of birdies. He picked up two more on the par 5s and finished with birdie putts of 20 feet and 12 feet on the last two holes for a 5-under 67.
Garcia hung his head in the 13th fairway when his 4-iron shot disappeared off a bank toward the tributary of Rae’s Creek. Moments later, he realized the ball bounced softly enough off the side of the bank to stop halfway down. He chipped up to tap-in range, turning a potential bogey into a birdie.
“Fortunately for me, that bank seems to be a tiny bit longer this year, which is nice,” Garcia said. “Because it gives you the possibility of getting a break like that.”
The 37-year-old Spaniard finished off his round by clenching his fist when a 7-foot par putt dropped into the cup for a 70.
Garcia and Rose were at 6-under 210.
They had a one-shot lead over Rickie Fowler, who made birdies on all four of the par 5s to offset a few mistakes in a round of 71.
Fowler, a social media star who said earlier this week he probably hasn’t achieved as much as he would have liked, never felt better going into the final round of a major, nor has he ever been so close to the lead with 18 holes to play.
He will be paired with Spieth in the penultimate group.
“I think it’s going to be a long, hard-fought day,” Fowler said. “I don’t think anyone is going to put themselves far enough out front where they can cruise in.”
Perhaps the most daunting name at Augusta National was Spieth, who began this Masters with a quadruple-bogey 9 on the 15th hole of the opening round and was 10 shots out of the lead when he trudged off the course on Thursday.
He pulled off a shot Saturday that would have made Arnold Palmer proud, a 4-iron off the pine straw and over the water on the 13th to 30 feet for a two-putt birdie. He nearly holed a wedge from the fairway on the 15th for another birdie and wound up with a 68.
Spieth won the Masters two years ago and was runner-up last year after losing a five-shot lead on the back nine. The 23-year-old Texan had a two-shot lead with 11 holes to play in his debut in 2014 before Bubba Watson overtook him.
Here he is again.
“Waking up and you have a chance to win your favorite tournament that you’ve dreamt of winning and competing in since you were a kid, and to be able to have your fourth opportunity now … I didn’t know going into my first one if I would have five chances in my life,” Spieth said. “So it’s awesome.”
Spieth was tied with Ryan Moore (69) and Charley Hoffman, who led for much of the day until he put his tee shot into the water on the par-3 16th and made double bogey. Hoffman battled for par on the last hole to stay just two shots behind.
Only 10 players remained under par, all of them separated by five shots. That group included former Masters champions Adam Scott (69) and Charl Schwartzel (68). Lee Westwood, a runner-up last year, also had a 68 and was five shots back.
Rory McIlroy has more work to do if he wants that green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam. McIlroy twice had to settle for pars despite being in ideal position on the par 5s on the back nine, and his 71 kept him from making up any ground. He was six shots behind.
Phil Mickelson started out birdie-birdie before his round fell apart with a chunked wedge on No. 3 that led to double bogey. Mickelson shot 39 on the front and 74 for the round, leaving him in a tie for 21st and eight shots behind in his bid to become at age 46 the oldest Masters champion.
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