Matsuyama takes four-shot Masters lead

-11 H Matsuyama (Jpn); -7 X Schauffele (US), M Leishman (Aus), J Rose (Eng), W Zalatoris (US); -6 C Conners (Can); -5 J Spieth (US); -4 B Harman (US)
Selected others: -2 R MacIntyre (Sco); +1 M Laird (Sco), T Fleetwood (Eng), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), M Wallace (Eng); +3 I Poulter (Eng), T Hatton (Eng); +4 P Casey (Eng)

Hideki Matsuyama shot a 65 on Saturday to take a four-shot lead into the final day of the Masters as he aims to become the first Japanese man to win a major.

The 29-year-old posted the first bogey-free round at Augusta National this week to leapfrog England’s Justin Rose into top spot and lead on 11 under.

Overnight leader Rose scrambled to a 72 and is one of four at seven under.

Americans Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris and Australia’s Marc Leishman are also tied with Rose.

Schauffele had four birdies, an eagle and two bogeys in his 68, while Leishman had four birdies in his 70.

Jordan Spieth, the 2015 champion, is two further back after recovering from a double bogey at seven to card a level-par 72 that leaves him at five under.

Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, on his Masters debut, sits at two under par in joint 10th after a second successive 70, trading six birdies with four bogeys.

“When the wind calmed down you could kind of get at it. I am happy enough with the last couple of days’ play,” said the 24-year-old.

World number two Justin Thomas began the day three shots back and birdied the second and third but made three bogeys and a triple-bogey eight at 13 between the ninth and the 14th to slip to one under par.

Play was suspended for more than an hour on Saturday because of a storm passing through Georgia.

Matsuyama makes his move

Matsuyama posted rounds of 69 and 71 to keep himself within touching distance heading into the weekend and he started the day three off the pace set by Rose.

The world number 25 made a steady start with pars on his opening six holes before a birdie at seven preceded an impressive run.

With Rose dropping shots at the fourth and fifth, the former world number two carded two successive birdies on 11 and 12 to move into a share of the lead with the Englishman.

That became a three-way tie for top spot when Zalatoris, playing in the final pairing alongside Rose, birdied the 10th.

Schauffele briefly made it four players in a share of the lead with an eagle at the par-five 15th, only for Rose to birdie 12 moments later and edge clear again at eight under.

But it was Matsuyama who jumped into the outright lead seconds later with an eagle of his own at the 15th to go nine under.

Matsuyama, who has occupied a top-10 spot entering the final round of a major on eight previous occasions, extended his lead to two after landing his tee shot at the par-three 16th four feet from the pin, before prodding in for birdie.

He stretched that advantage to three shots with a 10-foot birdie putt at 17, and made a smart up-and-down to save par on 18 and set the clubhouse lead.

Matsuyama, who has two top-10 finishes at Augusta National, becomes the first Japanese player to lead a round at the Masters.

“Before the horn blew I didn’t hit a very good drive but after the restart I hit practically every shot exactly how I wanted to,” he said after playing the last eight holes in six under par.

“It will be a new experience for me, being a leader going into the final round of a major. All I can do is relax, prepare well and do my best.”

Rose scrambles to stay in touch

Justin Rose
Justin Rose has led a round at the Masters on seven previous occasions

Rose’s struggles during the opening two rounds had come in the first seven holes, while he had not made a bogey on either day beyond that.

The 40-year-old made a birdie-birdie start on Saturday before being pegged back with successive bogeys on four and five, but it meant he still held a one-stroke lead when the hooter sounded while he was on the seventh green.

An hour and 18 minutes later, the Englishman returned and completed the front nine with a run of pars.

Rose looked to be in trouble on 11 after finding the trees down the right and then the bunker, but splashed out to within a foot for a tap-in par and then made birdie at 12.

He made two excellent pars on the 14th and 15th holes after hitting his approach shots through the green.

The two-time Masters runner-up dropped back to seven under when he bogeyed 16 but finished with two more scrambling pars, including holing a 10-foot putt on the last, to keep himself in contention.

“It was a tricky day, when the storm was approaching it was really windy,” said Rose. “When we came back out it felt there was a period of time to make a score, but then the greens slowed up a lot.

“There was definitely some tricky moments out there. I had to work hard and after 12 holes I thought I was in a nice spot. Hideki hit the jets and I hit the brakes a bit, that was the difference.

“A lot is to do with how Hideki plays, but there is a big chasing pack waiting. We are in a good spot.”

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