Rose clings to Masters lead as Spieth, Thomas give chase

Jim SLATER
·4-min read
The third round of the 85th Masters began Saturday with Justin Rose clinging to a one-stroke lead at Augusta National

Justin Rose carried a one-stroke lead into Saturday's third round of the Masters with major winners Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas on his heels and thunderstorms in the forecast.

Play began with light winds and overcast morning skies at Augusta National with Rose set to tee off at 2:20 p.m. (1820 GMT) in the last duo alongside American Will Zalatoris.

"Day three plays pretty difficult here at Augusta National," Rose said. "You just have to keep hitting the shots."

The 40-year-old Englishman is trying to become the sixth wire-to-wire Masters champion after Americans Craig Wood (1941), Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972), Ray Floyd (1976) and Spieth (2015).

Rose, twice a Masters runner-up, won his only major title at the 2013 US Open. He has led or shared the Masters lead after seven career rounds, the most of any player never to win a green jacket.

World number 41 Rose could become the first Englishman to win both the US Open and Masters and collect a hefty paycheck as a result.

Augusta National announced prize money figures Saturday with the same totals as the past two years, the winner taking home $2.07 million (1.7 Euros) from a total purse of $11.5 million.

Rose opened with a seven-under par 65 in firm and fast conditions and struggled to a 72 Friday to stand on seven-under 137 after 36 holes, one stroke ahead of Zalatoris and Brian Harman with Spieth and Australian Marc Leishman two adrift and Thomas in a pack three back.

"You can see the leaderboard and who is stacking up behind," Rose said. "I feel like there's a lot of firepower there."

Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner, will overtake Dustin Johnson to become world number one if he wins the green jacket after 2020 Masters champion Johnson missed the cut.

"I definitely have left a lot of shots out there the last two days," Thomas said. "But I'm in a great position."

Three-time major winner Spieth leads greens reached in regulation with 30 of 36, two better than Rose and Thomas, and snapped a four-year win drought last week in San Antonio.

Only twice since 1960 has a player won the Masters the week after a US PGA Tour victory -- US left-hander Phil Mickelson in 2006 after a triumph in Atlanta and Scotland's Sandy Lyle, who won at Greensboro the week before taking the 1988 Masters.

Spieth had not won since capturing the Claret Jug at the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale until the Texas Open, but likes the slow and steady improvement he sees in his game and wants to see Augusta National at its most formidable.

"I'm happy that the golf course has the opportunity to play more and more difficult over the weekend," Spieth said. "I'm looking forward to that kind of challenge, and I think that could be an advantage to me if I'm in control of the ball."

It might not happen. Thunderstorms are predicted for late afternoon, when the final groups will be on the back nine, and could soften the lightning-fast layout.

Not since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 has a player won the Masters in his debut, but that's the feat Zalatoris hopes to achieve at age 24.

"The joke I've been saying with my family is if I'm stupid enough to think I can play here, then I'm stupid enough to think I can win it," Zalatoris said.

- Horschel falls on rear -

Early Saturday starter Billy Horschel had a tough time at the par-5 13th hole.

After plunking his second shot into Rae's Creek in front of the green, the American removed his shoes and walked barefoot down a greenside slope, then slipped and fell on his rear.

Horschel rose, brushed the grass off his white pants and stepped into the water, then punched his third shot onto the green on the way to a par.

South Korean Kim Si-woo, who broke his putter on the 15th hole Friday and used a 3-wood to putt on his way to four closing pars that left him on 140, had a replacement putter for round three -- one that helped American Pat Perez win at Mayakoba in 2016.

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