Augusta (United States) (AFP) – Patrick Reed birdied the eighth and ninth holes to build a two-shot lead over a charging Rory McIlroy midway through Saturday’s third round of the 82nd Masters.
Reed, ranked 24th in the world and chasing a first major title, came into the day with a two-stroke lead and was unbowed in the face of four-time major winner McIlroy’s surge.
Reed bounced back from a nervy bogey at the third with a birdie at the fifth.
No sooner had McIlroy joined him atop the leaderboard at 9-under than Reed rolled in a nine-foot birdie at the eighth and a 25-footer at the ninth.
Reed began the back nine with a birdie but made a bogey at the par-3 12th to return to 11-under.
With expected heavy rain and wind failing to materialize early, McIlroy was making the most of an Augusta National course softened by light showers.
Trailing by five to start the day, he gained ground with birdies at the third and fourth — where he rolled in a 20-footer.
McIlroy’s momentum built with an unlikely par at the fifth, where his second shot from a fairway bunker caught the lip but kept travelling, settling 13 feet from the pin.
McIlroy, who can complete a rare career Grand Slam with a first Masters title, missed his birdie try. But he gave himself a tap-in birdie at the par-3 sixth and then used a sand wedge to pitch in for eagle at the par-5 eighth, making the turn at 9-under.
American Rickie Fowler was 7-under through 12 after kick-starting his round with an eagle at the par-5 second, and Spain’s world number three Jon Rahm was 7-under through 16.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood was the leader in the clubhouse. He reeled off five straight birdies on the back nine, launching the run with a 24-foot birdie putt at the par-3 12th.
He bogeyed the last in a 6-under 66 for a 6-under total of 210.
“The course was playing a lot easier,” Fleetwood said. The greens are really soft, the wind wasn’t really blowing hard today. If you’re going to shoot low, today’s the day to do it.”
Another three players shared fifth on 6-under as Moving Day lived up to its moniker.
– Frustration for Woods –
Four-time Masters winner Tiger Woods, however, was spinning his wheels.
The 14-time major champion, who insisted as he set out to close a 13-shot deficit on Saturday that he was looking for a “special weekend”, opened with back-to-back bogeys on the way to an even-par 72.
Woods, back at Augusta for the first time in three years, hit 4-of-14 fairways but said his real problem continued to be poor iron play.
“It has been scratchy this week,” he said. “I’m not getting it done. My swing is just off with my irons.”
Woods had battled back to even par for the day with seven-foot birdie putts at the sixth and eighth.
He managed to par the par-3 12th for the first time this week — after finding the water en route to bogeys on Thursday and Friday.
“I just couldn’t do it three days in a row. I just couldn’t,” said Woods, who raised his arms in celebration when his ball cleared the creek.
He bounced back from a bogey at the par-5 15th with his last birdie of the day, rolling in a five-footer at the par-3 16th and at 4-over 220 said his main aim for Sunday was to get to even par for the tournament.
Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson endured an even tougher day, opening with a triple-bogey seven at the first.
The big number included a whiff as Mickelson tried to hit out of the trees, his club hitting a branch.
In classic Mickelson style, he still managed to wow the gallery with an eagle at the par-5 eighth, where he hit driver off the deck as he swept his second shot 271 yards and made the nine-foot putt.
“A shot like that makes it fun,” Mickelson said, but it was the exception in his 2-over 74 for a 7-over total of 223.
“I’m just hitting some pretty bad shots,” he said. “I’m hitting some good ones, but hitting a lot of really bad ones.”