cottie Scheffler will go into the final round of the Masters with a three-shot lead after an impressive third-round display at Augusta National.
The world number one went into Sunday with a five-shot advantage and saw that cut into as he shot a round of 71 to leave himself on nine-under, overcoming some late strife after a wayward drive on the 18th.
That he can’t have a more comfortable night’s sleep is largely due to Cameron Smith, after the Australia posted a sublime 68. He was the only player on Saturday to break 70 in cold and windy conditions.
Sungjae Im was four-over for his first six holes, but had five birdies and no further dropped shots from that point onwards as he turned his day around impressively to finish on four under, with 2011 champion Charles Schwartzel and Shane Lowry in a tie for fourth two shots further back.
Rory McIlroy is in a tie for ninth on one-over-par, ten shots off the lead, alongside Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa. It was a tough day for Tiger Woods who shot a round of 78 and looked to be struggling physically as finished with a double bogey.
Those in the top ten going into the third round were relying on Scheffler coming back to them, but he made the perfect start with a brilliant up-and-down at the first hole and then followed it with birdies at the second and third.
The lead was cut to four shots though after a bogey at the fourth, with Lowry the closest challenger after a tidy start from the Irishman. It was a largely frustrating round from Lowry though, who could not find a birdie from the seventh hole onwards and found it difficult to dial in his wedges.
There were no such problems for Scheffler, and two more birdies before the turn restored his comfortable advantage.
Smith looked the most likely to jump out of the chasing pack and mount a serious challenge at the world number one, with five birdies in ten holes moving him to seven under. That got the Australian to within three of Scheffler, who made a slightly fortunate bogey at 12 – his shot into the famous par-three was a matter of yards from finding the water.
Once again, the response was immediate from Scheffler who made an easy birdie at 13, though a slightly clumsy chip led to another dropped shot at the following hole.
Smith couldn’t get up-and-down at the 16th, but did just that on the final hole to get to the clubhouse within range at six-under.
His score looked better and better as the final group played their last few holes, with Scheffler three-putting on the 15th green to drop back to nine-under.
The American knocked his approach at 17 to five feet though and made the putt to seemingly steady the ship, but his worst drive of the tournament came at just the wrong time. A huge double-cross off the tee at 18 sent his ball flying into the bushes left of the fairway, with a search party quickly descending on the scene.
Scheffler took a drop and then went a long way to rectifying the situation with a superb third shot from 242 yards out that just rolled off the back of the green. Two putts from there gave him what could prove to be a great bogey.
While he remains in excellent shape to put on the Green Jacket on Sunday night, Scheffler will be all too aware that Augusta is a course full of final-round horror stories from those in seemingly commanding positions.