AUGUSTA: Justin Rose had been looking for a wire-to-wire victory at the Masters. Now his chances to win are hanging by a thread.
The 40-year-old Englishman sank a long par putt at the 18th hole on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to fire a level par 72 for the second straight day at Augusta National and watch Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama seize a four-stroke lead on 11-under 205 with a stunning 65.
Rose shares second on seven-under 209 after 54 holes with Australian Marc Leishman and Americans Will Zalatoris and Xander Schauffele entering Sunday’s final round.
“All the guys chasing at 7-under par are all capable of that little run that Hideki has had, so it’s all up for grabs tomorrow,” Rose said.
Reigning Olympic champion Rose, whose only major win came at the 2013 US Open, began with back-to-back birdies but had bogeys at the fourth and fifth holes and only played level par the rest of the way.
“You start birdie-birdie, it doesn’t really mean much,” Rose said. “This golf course, you’ve just got to keep playing it. Hideki has got to keep playing it.”
Rose found that the hard way when he birdied the par-3 12th to retake the outright lead at 8-under.
Seconds later, Matsuyama eagled the par-5 15th to seize the outright lead and kept it the rest of the round.
Two-time Masters runner-up Rose said the secret to fighting back on Sunday would be driving.
“Probably drive it better,” Rose said. “The drives that hit the fairway were a little spinny as well, so I wasn’t really connecting with the back of the ball just as I would like.”
A 78-minute storm delay swept out brisk winds and left the rain-drenched course vulnerable. Matsuyama adapted well to the change and charged. Rose struggled to read greens that had been like lightning and were slowed.
“It was a very different feel,” Rose said. “There was sort of like 30 or 40 minutes where it was pretty calm, wasn’t any rain, course softened up, and there was an opportunity, obviously as Hideki proved, to make some birdies.