Hideki Matsuyama takes four-stroke lead in weather-affected Masters | The Masters


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Moving day? Matsuyama day. Proving how even a brief delay in a tournament – in this case 75 minutes – can totally change skin tone, Hideki Matsuyama has emerged to leave the rest of the Masters field in search of air.

He now sits 18 hole making history; as the first Asian Masters winner and the only Japanese to have won a major. Ten years ago, Matsuyama won amateur honors at Augusta. Since then, his best result was fifth in 2015; a repeat of the final round of 66 as pieced together then would be more than enough to seal what would be the greatest achievement of his career.

Matsuyama’s third round of 65, which included just 30 strokes on the back nine, gave him a four stroke advantage at 11 under par. Matsuyama was just part of the conversation in front of an eagle in the 15th, backed by birdies on his next two holes.

It can be said that Matsuyama’s finest moment of the day has come at the end. After finding X-rated territory behind the green with an adrenaline-fueled approach, the 29-year-old found the touch of an angel to leave a tap-in par. “The rain allowed me to spin the ball,” Matsuyama said, rather modestly, later.

Matsuyama has delivered the only 18 holes without a bogey in the 85th Masters to date. Quite simply, he adjusted better than any other player on the pitch at the late afternoon break much needed to avoid an electrical storm.

Matsuyama spent the said break in his car, playing games on his cell phone. “I played well today,” Matsuyama said. “I just stuck with my game plan. I hope I can do the same tomorrow. “

Xander Sc Chaudele, Justin Rose, Marc Leishman and Will Zalatoris are the closest to Matsuyama. Rose saved par at last for a scrappy 72. Corey Conners has six cents.

Jordan Spieth denounced a bogey in the 16th, which brought him down to five under par, and a bird putt which released last. The rejuvenated Texan delivered some typically pleasant moments with a magnificent approach to pine straw in the 8th and chip-in in the 10th, but those advances were offset by aberrations. He trailed by six after a 72.

Justin Thomas, for so long a contender, completely in trouble with an eight in the 13th. A 75 left him 10 shy of Matsuyama. At plus two and having shot 75 on Saturday, Bryson DeChambeau’s race is over. DeChambeau can still understand Augusta but it remains firmly a work in progress.

Justin Rose throws his ball after saving par on 18th hole
Justin Rose holds his ball after saving par on the 18th hole. Photograph: David J Phillip / AP

Much earlier, Billy Horschel had won infamy online with a moment that – to his credit – he was perfectly happy to laugh at. Barefoot and white pants, Horschel slid onto his back as his ball approached, which was consigned to Rae’s Creek in the 13th.

Horschel’s mood was likely improved by the fact that he dusted himself off not only to manage to escape danger, but also to save par. Phil Mickelson, Horschel’s playing partner, managed to keep a straight face.

Horschel explained, “I said to Phil, ‘How bad is this patch of grass going to be?’ and he said, “Maybe there isn’t any there.” Then he looked and said, “Yeah, there’s one over there.” Sorry, mate. “I ripped my pants off the course a few times and at the start of the rounds. There have been embarrassing things, and it happens. I don’t know, maybe it’s me and the things I do mean it’s happening. I agree, it’s funny. You can’t laugh and have fun with it, it’s OK. I do a lot of that laughing to myself.

Mickelson, who has produced the wonderfully unorthodox on golf courses for decades, was full of admiration for Horschel’s recovery from the creek.

“He hit one of the best shots I’ve ever seen,” Mickelson said. “There were two balls in the water that I was looking at, one was half submerged, the other was completely submerged. I thought for sure his bullet was the half-submerged one. Nope. He went after that bullet was completely submerged and pulled this thing out. It was an incredible golf shot.

Horschel’s 73 for a total of plus four means he won’t bother the leaders on day four. The same cannot be said of Mickelson, who soared after signing for a 69. At par level, Mickelson cannot be fully counted to claim what would be the fourth Green Jacket, 17 years after the victory of his first. If Matsuyama surrendered – he hasn’t won since 2017 – the tournament would be difficult to organize.

“I’m going to need to shoot something in the ’60s, but it’s always fun to have a chance,” said Mickelson, 50. “You want this opportunity to do what Nicklaus did in 1986 and shoot 65 for a chance.” Never say never.

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