© Reuters. Golf – The Masters – Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia, U.S. – April 9, 2022 Scottie Scheffler of the U.S. looks his drive on the 17th tee during the third round REUTERS/Mike Blake
By Steve Keating
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – World number one Scottie Scheffler takes the spotlight and a three-shot lead into the Masters final round on Sunday as Tiger Woods continues his comeback far away from the leaderboard.
The year’s first major looks poised for a Green Jacket showdown between the planet’s two hottest golfers in Scheffler, winner of three of his last five PGA Tour starts and Australian Cameron Smith, winner of golf’s unofficial fifth major the Players Championship in March.
Scheffler had been poised to run away with the title when he powered to a six-shot lead in Saturday’s third round but wobbled to the finish with three bogeys to see his advantage halved setting up what could be an Augusta National thriller.
The final pair of Scheffler and Smith, runner-up to Dustin Johnson at the 2020 Masters, are scheduled off at 240pm ET (1840 GMT).
If anyone else expects to join the fray they will need to mount an early charge.
South Korea’s Im Sung-jae will start five off the pace with playing partner Irishman Shane Lowry, the 2019 British Open champion, seven back.
South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, is also seven adrift with his partner Justin Thomas eight back.
Until Sunday the Masters spotlight had seldom strayed from Woods, who is playing his first event since a car crash 14 months ago nearly cost him his right leg.
The 46-year-old on Tuesday confirmed he would play the Masters and that he believed he could win a record-equalling sixth Green Jacket.
The 15-times major winner’s comeback captivated the golfing world as he stayed in contention through the opening two rounds but any hope of victory ended on Saturday with a six-over 78, Woods’s worst ever score at Augusta National.
He and his playing partner Jon Rahm were among the early starters on Sunday going off at 1050am ET (1450 GMT) almost four hours before Scheffler and Smith.
But Woods is assured of a roaring ovation from the adoring gallery for a brave effort when he walks off the 18th green.