- The Masters: Round Three
Aussie invasion outflanked by Snedeker & Cabrera
Saturday is always labelled as 'Moving Day' at a major championship but - of the little moving that was actually done - most of it came in the wrong direction at the Masters, as Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera limited mistakes better than their rivals to enter the final round with a share of the lead.
2013 Masters: Third round scores
- -7 Brandt Snedeker
- -6 Adam Scott
- -5 Marc Leishman
- -4 Matt Kuchar
- -3 Tiger Woods, Tim Clark
Leaderboard: 2013 Masters Tournament
Masters: Third round gallery
More slow play attention for Guan
Tiger accepts penalty, denies any cheating
Woods handed two-shot penalty for drop
Bubba: Television complaints not cool
An Australian has never won the Masters - despite the best efforts of Greg Norman et al - but that could change on Sunday, with Adam Scott, Jason Day and Marc Leishman all within two shots of the two front-runners as the top five at Augusta took on a distinctly Antipodean feel.
Snedeker and Cabrera will be the favourites heading into Sunday, however - the American showing some ominous form on the greens to breeze into the hunt with a round of 69, while the Argentine, champion here in 2009, overcame a few back nine wobbles to make it a pair at seven-under overall with a nerveless birdie at the 18th.
"The way I started this year really boosted my confidence," Snedeker said afterwards. "I believe I can beat anybody at any time. I'm hoping to prove that tomorrow."
As Tiger Woods fought back from a two-shot penalty to start the day - although arguably he was fortunate to avoid a disqualification - to keep himself on the fringes of the hunt, others slowly but surely fell by the wayside - with Rory McIlroy and, to a lesser extent, Justin Rose seeing their challenges fade on an afternoon where Augusta National declined to offer easy birdies to the afternoon starters.
It was impressive golf from Snedeker, one of the in-form players of the last ninth months. Recovered from rib injury that forced him to miss a number of high-profile tournaments in the last eight weeks, the American began Saturday with 12 successive pars - no mean feat in the conditions - before making his move, notching birdies at 13, 15 and 16 (after a wonderful tee-shot approach) to finally join Day at seven-under.
Slow play has been a problem all week but Snedeker is one of the fastest movers on tour - and he added pars at 17 and 18 with the minimum of fuss to set the seven-under clubhouse mark that Cabrera would subsequently match.
"It was about shooting away from the pins today," Snedeker noted. "If you do that you can avoid trouble, make easy pars, and avoid putting yourself under pressure."
Cabrera did not follow that blueprint but ended up in the same place, fighting back from bogeys at 12 and 13 to match Snedeker's tee-shot at the 16th and then leave himself an eight-footer for a share of the lead at the last.
The early running had been made by Day, the overnight leader. The 25-year-old began his round with 12 straight pars before picking up a shot at the par-five 15th - subsequently adding three more pars as he closed in on the 54-hole lead. But a short missed putt at the 17th - after a agonising lip-out - dropped him out of the group at seven-under, and then a three-putt at the last saw him fall behind fast-finishing compatriot Scott and into a tie with Leishman.
Scott, the 2012 Open Championship runner-up, had also struggled for birdies early in his round, but red numbers at 13, 15 and 17 thrust him up the leaderboard at the perfect time.
"It'd be great to win it," he said afterwards. "There are three of us so close. It'd be great for one of us to get over the hurdle - hope it's me."
Under that duo came Leishman, maintaining his challenge despite being far-and-away the least heralded of the leading players, while Matt Kuchar's four-under total proving better and better as the afternoon wore on.
Then came Tiger. Woods, all things considered, produced an impressive round of 70 to remain with valid aspirations of victory. Starting the day by being summoned to meet the rules committee, discussions which ended with a two-shot penalty (but not a disqualification) added to his Friday score, the American responded by birdieing the first - aiming to immediately erase the advantage to the leaders he had been forced to give up.
The 14-time major champion found it as difficult as anyone else to pick up further shots, however - but a fine closing stretch, featuring birdies at 12, 13 and 15 (finding the green in two this time, rather than the water in three) enabled him to sneak his way back to the top page of the leaderboard.
A couple of solid mid-range par putts later, and Woods was in the clubhouse at three-under.
"Under the rules of golf, I was able to play," Woods said, when first asked about the rules controversy. "I hit it okay today. I missed a few putts ... but the finish was huge. It certainly keeps me in the ballgame.
"Anything can happen here."
Compatriots Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk are one shot behind Woods, along with Lee Westwood and the evergreen Bernhand Langer - who was busy proving that Couples is not the only former champion still capable of contending around this course.
Justin Rose, at level-par, may just contend on Sunday with an extremely low round but Luke Donald (two-over) would be over-optimistic to still be sizing up the green jacket. Rory McIlroy's dream also appears to be over for another year, the world No. 2 starting well - in contrast to his two prior efforts - before a treble-bogey seven at the par-four 11th comprehensively derailed his progress.
A follow-up double-bogey at the 15th compounded the Northern Irishman's problems, as he finally posted a round of 79 to slip well out of contention at five-under.
"The wind switched on me," McIlroy said, when asked about both disaster holes. "Very small margins, but you pay a big price for them."
With the course slightly softer in the morning the early starters found good scoring possible, with Tim Clark setting the early clubhouse target at three-under after a impressive round of 67. It would prove to be the best round of the day, with Nick Watney (one-under overall) and Thorbjorn Olesen (evens) only one shot short.
After the drama involved with making the cut, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan struggled to match the heroics of his opening two days - but a round of 77 was nevertheless impressive growing from the popular Chinese.