• Kyodo


A wayward putter cost Hideki Matsuyama two late bogeys in the third round of the Masters on Saturday, but he goes into the final 18 holes in a tie for third, just two strokes behind leader and defending champion Jordan Spieth.

“There were very few scores under par,” Matsuyama told pga.com after finishing even on the day and at 1-under for the tournament. “It was very difficult. To keep my score even par, I’m satisfied.”

Matsuyama, ranked No. 14 in the world, will tee off in the second-to-last group on Sunday next to German veteran Bernhard Langer, who is tied for third with the Ehime-native. Spieth and fellow American Smylie Kaufman, who sits one off the lead at 2-under, will follow them home in the final group. Australian world No. 1 Jason Day is three shots from the lead in a tie for fifth.

Spieth retained the tournament lead after an up-and-down day that saw him card five birdies but give back six shots with two bogeys and two double-bogeys — both on the back nine. Kaufman, 24, rocketed up the leaderboard with the day’s best round, a four-birdie, one-bogey, 3-under 69.

“It was a really tough finish to go from holding a four-shot lead to where all of the sudden, now it’s anyone’s game,” Spieth said. “So it’s tough to swallow that.”

Matsuyama got off to a stellar start, hitting a high-difficulty shot around the trees from the rough to the middle of the par-5 second’s green, setting up a long eagle chance. He missed the ensuing putt but tapped in for a birdie to move to 2-under.

He gave the shot back with a bogey on the third but had a strong finish on the front-nine, closing with a birdie on the par-5 eighth.

Matsuyama had a chance to open the back-nine with another birdie but missed a golden opportunity by pulling a 3-meter put left of the hole. He made up for the miss on the 14th, rattling home a fast downhill left-to-right 8-meter putt.

Matsuyama, who is looking to become the first Japanese player to be fitted for the famous green jacket, had his putting stroke desert him as he bogeyed both the par-3 16th and par-4 17th, dropping him back to 1-under for the tournament but still with a great chance of winning his first major on the U.S. tour.

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