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Jordan Spieth surges into Masters storyline with relentless 3rd-round 68

Sergio Garcia watches his second shot from the 17th fairway during the third round of the Masters tournament. Garcia finished the round tied for first with Justin Rose at 6-under par.
Sergio Garcia watches his second shot from the 17th fairway during the third round of the Masters tournament. Garcia finished the round tied for first with Justin Rose at 6-under par. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

For all that happened atop the Masters leader board, it was one name just down the list that attracted most of the attention Saturday at Augusta National.

Jordan Spieth.

While the 54-hole lead is shared by Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia at 6-under par 204, Spieth surged into the storyline with a third-round 68 that left him two shots off the lead and with a chance to win for the second time in three years.

“We did what we needed to do. We need one more day of it,” Spieth said.

Rose made five back-nine birdies and earned his share of the lead when Charley Hoffman faltered late. Garcia, meanwhile, is in position to win his first major championship in his 74th attempt.

“To wake up with a chance to win your favorite tournament and to have a fourth opportunity now, I didn’t know going into my first one if I’d have five chances in my life. It’s awesome,” Spieth said.

Three who mattered

Rose: Quiet for two days, Rose shot 5-under par 31 on the second nine Saturday and wound up with a share of the lead. He’s a big-moment player and the moments don’t get much bigger.

Spieth: No offense to Hoffman, but Spieth has been the most compelling character to this point. After the mess he made at No. 15 on Thursday, Spieth has been on a relentless march.

Garcia: Sometimes one stroke of fortune makes all the difference. Could that be the case with Garcia’s second shot Saturday at No. 13 than hung on a steep bank rather than bounce into the creek?

Observations

▪ It started so well for Phil Mickelson Saturday – he opened birdie-birdie – then it began to unravel when he chunked two shots before reaching the green on the short par-4 third hole, leading to a double bogey. The idea of Mickelson winning a fourth Masters at age 46 was fun while it lasted.

▪ It looks like Rory McIlroy’s career Grand Slam will remain incomplete. Barring a sensational Sunday round, McIlroy still won’t have a green jacket. His Saturday 71 left him six shots behind the leaders. “I’m going to need my best score around here, 65, and I’m going to need something like that to have a chance tomorrow,” McIlroy said.

▪ This is why people love Jordan Spieth: As he studied his second shot from the pine straw right of the 13th fairway, he asked caddie Michael Greller “What would Arnie do?” Greller said, “Hit it to 20 feet.” Then Spieth ripped his second shot over the creek and to within 29 feet of the hole, setting up a two-putt birdie.

Worth mentioning

▪ Other holes at Augusta National are more famous and adorn artwork, but few are more difficult than the par-4 first hole. In fact, no hole has been tougher than the first, which played into the gusty wind the first two rounds. How difficult has it been? The best players in the world have made just nine birdies there so far.

▪ If you’re wondering, no one has ever won the Masters with a triple bogey on his scorecard. Spieth is trying to do it with a quadruple bogey on his card.

▪ Sunday is a big day for Fairmont native William McGirt, who has remained among the leaders for three days. A top-12 finish will earn him a spot in the Masters next year.

They said it

“Oh, I just didn’t want Jeff to beat me, right. I heard that he beat Rory. He said he was nervous on the first 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.” – Jason Day, who played with Augusta National member Jeff Knox because he was the first player off Saturday morning and is not allowed to play alone.

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