US Masters: Hideki Matsuyama shines after the rain to take control

Japanese star completed the final eight holes in six under par after a weather delay

Hideki Matsuyama walks on the 15th hole with his caddie during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP Photo

Hideki Matsuyama walks on the 15th hole with his caddie during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP Photo

 

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama stormed home in style to put himself in position to become the first Asian golfer to win the Masters as he held a four-shot lead after the rain-interrupted third round at Augusta National on Saturday.

Matsuyama, who began the day three shots behind overnight leader Justin Rose, played eight holes after a 78-minute weather delay and went a sizzling six under over that stretch for a seven-under-par 65 that brought him to 11 under.

“Before the horn blew I didn’t hit a very good drive, but after the horn blew for the restart I hit practically every shot exactly how I wanted to,” Matsuyama, whose last PGA Tour win came in 2017, said through an interpreter.

“This will be a new experience for me being a leader going into the final round in a major. I guess all I can do is just relax tonight, prepare well and just do my best tomorrow.”

Rose (72), seeking his first green jacket after a pair of close calls, was in a four-way share of second place with Xander Schauffele (68), Australian Marc Leishman (70) and Masters debutant Will Zalatoris (71).

Shane Lowry,the sole Irish competitor left after Rory McIlroy missed the cut, started the day seven shots off the lead at level par but failed to really get anything going. An early birdie at the second hole got the 2019 British Open champion moving in the right direction but he gave it straight back with a bogey at the fifth.

And that would remain the story of the day with a birdie two at the sixth before a bogey at the 11th and a birdie at the 13th followed by a dropped shot at the Par 3 16th after a three-putt.

It all added up to a round of 72 for Lowry and leaves him in a tie for 21st, still in line for the best Masters finish of his career so far.

Shane Lowry tees off on the seventh hole. Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP Photo
Shane Lowry tees off on the seventh hole. Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

World number 25 Matsuyama stormed through Amen Corner with a pair of birdies and then started to pull away from the field with an eagle at the par-five 15th to grab the outright lead following a magnificent approach.

Matsuyama then birdied the next two holes before capping the first bogey-free round of the week with a par to set a target nobody could catch as he became the first player from Japan to lead after any round of the Masters.

It also marked Matsuyama’s best round in his 10 Masters appearances by one shot.

Rose had been in control all week and led by two shots moments after play resumed but was out of sync and unable to take advantage of rain-softened conditions.

The 40-year-old Englishman made a birdie-birdie start to build an early three-shot lead but then made consecutive bogeys from the par-three fourth before the inclement weather moved in while he was playing the seventh hole.

After the stoppage, Rose returned and mixed one birdie with a bogey at the par-three 16th where his tee shot found the front bunker.

Former champion Jordan Spieth (72), who came into the week among the favourties after snapping a nearly four-year victory drought, was six shots back after a round that included four birdies, two bogeys and an double-bogey.

Matsuyama pitches from the back of the 18th. Photo: Erik S. Lesser
Matsuyama pitches from the back of the 18th. Photo: Erik S. Lesser

Schauffele, who drained a 61-foot eagle putt at the par-five 15th that gave him a brief share of the lead until playing competitor Matsuyama made his eagle, will be in the final group for Sunday’s final round.

“My dinner will taste a little better,” Schauffele said after making some key putts down the stretch and an up-and-down for par at the penultimate hole. “It wasn’t quite as nice as Hideki’s cleanup there on the last few holes, but I’ll take it.”

Collated third round scores (USA unless stated, Par 72):

205 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 69 71 65

209 Marc Leishman (Aus) 72 67 70, Justin Rose (Eng) 65 72 72, Xander Schauffele 72 69 68, Will Zalatoris 70 68 71

210 Corey Conners (Can) 73 69 68

211 Jordan Spieth 71 68 72

212 Brian Harman 69 69 74

213 Tony Finau 74 66 73

214 Si Woo Kim (Kor) 71 69 74, Robert MacIntyre (Sco) 74 70 70, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 74 66 74

215 Stewart Cink 74 69 72, Viktor Hovland (Nor) 73 70 72, Kevin Na 75 70 70, Ryan Palmer 74 68 73, Patrick Reed 70 75 70, Cameron Smith (Aus) 74 68 73, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 73 71 71, Justin Thomas 73 67 75

216 Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 72 72 72, Shane Lowry (Irl) 71 73 72, Phil Mickelson 75 72 69, Francesco Molinari (Ita) 74 73 69, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 75 71 70, Jon Rahm (Spa) 72 72 72, Scottie Scheffler 73 72 71, Webb Simpson 70 76 70

217 Cameron Champ 72 68 77, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 74 70 73, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 74 70 73, Matt Jones (Aus) 74 69 74, Martin Laird (Sco) 74 71 72, Collin Morikawa 73 69 75, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 74 71 72, Matt Wallace (Eng) 74 72 71, Bubba Watson 74 70 73

218 Bryson DeChambeau 76 67 75, Harris English 74 71 73, Jason Kokrak 71 76 71, Sebastian Munoz (Col) 74 73 71, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 76 70 72

219 Abraham Ancer (Mex) 75 69 75, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 71 74 74, Ian Poulter (Eng) 74 73 72, Michael Thompson 72 72 75

220 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 70 76 74, Paul Casey (Eng) 73 74 73, Billy Horschel 76 71 73, Brendon Todd 73 71 76, Gary Woodland 73 72 75

221 Jose Maria Olazabal (Spa) 75 71 75

222 Jim Herman 76 70 76

226 Adam Scott (Aus) 74 73 79

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