2022 Masters leaderboard breakdown: Scottie Scheffler’s lead narrows as Cameron Smith puts pressure on

2022 Masters leaderboard breakdown: Scottie Scheffler’s lead narrows as Cameron Smith puts pressure on

Scottie Scheffler handed some strokes back to the field on the final nine holes of the third round at the 2022 Masters, creating plenty of intrigue ahead of Sunday’s final round after it appeared as though the world No. 1 was about to run away with his first green jacket. There will be plenty of history on the line when Scheffler and the field step up Sunday to take on Augusta National with $2.7 million hanging in the balance.

Scheffler is trying to become the fourth man to win in his first Masters start, joining Horton Smith, Gene Sarazen and Fuzzy Zoeller. He’s already won three times in 2022 and reached the top of the world rankings in the process, so it’s not a huge surprise to see him playing well here at Augusta National this week. He’s also attempting to be just the fifth golfer to enter the masters as the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world and leave with a green jacket, following Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples, Tiger Woods (twice) and Dustin Johnson.

What was a surprise was the four bogeys across the final seven holes by Scheffler on Saturday afternoon. Suddenly, a lead that hovered around five strokes for most of the day quickly shrank hand-in-hand with Cameron Smith shooting the best round of the day and surging to 6 under. Bogeys on No. 12, No. 14, No. 15 and No. 18 left Scheffler at 9 under, one stroke better than he started for the championship but closer to the field than he was hoping to be after an impressive start to the round.

Here’s how the top of the leaderboard looks heading into Sunday’s final round at the 86th Masters.

2022 Masters leaderboard, Round 3

1. Scottie Scheffler (-9): A strong 33 on the first nine helped prevent the ultimate damage from some risk-taking and mishits on the second nine as he rounded his worst round of the week but still protected a multi-stroke lead. Scheffler saved himself from disaster on the 18th when he plucked his ball out of a forest to hit an incredible approach shot from a stack of pine needles. He bogeyed, cutting his advantage to three strokes, but it could have been far worse.

2. Cam Smith (-6): The round of the day came from one of the hottest golfers in the world as Smith caught fire with six birdies on his way to a 68. Smith’s 16 birdies across three rounds is double the field average and shows one of the sport’s best right now bringing his A-game in the same difficult scoring conditions that knocked most off their game.

3. Sungjae Im (-4): After a rocky start that included a double bogey on No. 1 and back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 5 and 6, Im rolled off five birdies and no bogeys on his final 11 holes to go soaring back up the leaderboard after taking an early afternoon tumble. Like Scheffler, the 18-hole leader Im was 1 under for the day but remains in the hunt.

T4. Shane Lowry, Charl Schwartzel (-2): Both major champions played close to field average on Saturday after carding among the lowest scores in the field on Friday. Schwartzel made eagle on the ninth but imploded on the second nine with four bogeys. Both finished the day one stroke higher than they started it.

T6. Justin Thomas, Corey Conners (-1): JT is one of seven players in the top 10 with a major championship already under their belt, and therefore, he is theoretically a threat to Scheffler’s lead. Thomas continued his rebound from an atrocious 76 on Thursday with a 72 that beat the field average by a couple strokes. Unfortunately, while Moving Day featured elite ball striking into the greens, it was also his worst putting performance of the tournament so far, and a couple more made putts would mean JT having a much better chance of capturing his second major championship.

Meanwhile, the iron play has been really solid from Conners all week, as has the putter, and his 72 falls in line with that consistency as he’s hovered around par all week while most of the field has posted as least one round with big numbers. The 30-year-old Canadian is building an impressive Augusta resume with a chance to notch his third-straight top-10 finish.

T8. Danny Willett (E): The 2016 Masters champion has been a par machine this week. His 38 pars are perfectly balanced with exactly eight birdies and eight bogeys. Willett’s 3-under 69 on Thursday helped boost his position heading into Sunday, and if he matches that score in Round 4, he will likely record his best finish since that 2016 victory.

T9. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa, Jason Kokrak, Tommy Fleetwood (+1): Of this group, it was Morikawa and DJ that fell back into the +1 logjam while the rest went under par in the third round. Fleetwood’s 70 was the second-best round of the day. Rory moving into the top 10 would be a bigger story if the distance between Scheffler’s lead and 10th place on the leaderboard wasn’t eight strokes. There’s definitely a chance for a strong finish on Sunday, record his seventh top-10 in the last nine Masters and maybe even match his best-ever finish at Augusta National (solo 4th in 2015). But fourth place is only three strokes away, and actually the grand slam is way further out of reach.

T14. Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Will Zalatoris, Cameron Champ (+2): After starting the day very much in the mix to chase Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion saw the wheels fall off in a 5-over 77 that included five bogeys and a double. Champ was the only one of this group to finish under par Saturday, riding a strong performance off the tee and with the putter on the greens.

T41. Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm, Daniel Berger and Russell Henley (+7): Tiger’s 78 was his worst at Augusta National as an amateur or a pro, and Rahm’s 77 cemented what’s already been a week of results well below the pre-tournament expectations. Both Woods and Rahm are candidates to throw a crazy-low number on the board Sunday morning in ideal scoring conditions, but both will also have some regrets later about how things played out on Saturday.

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