US MASTERS

Masters leader Spieth has mixed emotions ahead of final day

Although maintaining his position at the top of the leaderboard, after dropping three shots in the final two holes Jordan Spieth admitted it would be tough to forget about it.

Masters leader Spieth has mixed emotions ahead of final day
ERIK S. LESSER EFE

Masters leader Jordan Spieth admitted he had mixed feelings after Saturday's third round, which saw him maintain his lead over the field despite dropping three shots in the last two holes.

It had been, he said, a fine round of golf, but had been spoiled to some extent by his closing hole, which saw him mis-hit his drive, misjudge his approach shot and then three-putt for a double-bogey six.

Having also bogeyed the 17th after another errant drive, suddenly, what had been looking like a comfortable four-shot advantage for the 22-year-old defending champion going into Sunday's final round, had turned into a knife-edge one-shot margin.

Spieth ended the day on 3-under 213, one shot clear of American debutante Smylie Kaufman, with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and German veteran Bernhard Langer a shot further back.

Spieth's tee shot on the sixth hole during the third round

Asked how he would be able to put behind him the poor finish to the round, he replied: "I think it will be tough personally.

"I mean honestly, I think it will be tough to put it behind. I think I will, but that wasn't a fun last couple holes to play from the position I was in.

"I'm not going to dodge the question by any means. It's not going to be fun tonight for a little while, and hopefully I just sleep it off and it's fine tomorrow. I imagine that will be the case."

It was all in sharp contrast to last year, when Spieth produced a fine finish at 18 on the Saturday to open up a four-stroke advantage over the field.

The following day, he came back to win his first major with a record-matching 18-under par total before going on to win the US Open two months later.

"I've certainly felt better last year on Saturday night than I do right now," he said. "I had a four-shot lead and everything was going right. Just came off a great up-and-down on 18.

The 2016 Masters TournamentSmylie Kaufman lines up his putt on the seventeenth hole.

"I felt much better about my position last year than I do right this second, just because of what happened in the last 40 minutes.

"But at the same time, I feel that if I can get to the range, I straighten the ball out tomorrow, I get back to the same routine I was just in, I certainly think that down the stretch, I'm better prepared now than I was at this point last year."

The day had been billed as a shootout between Spieth and fellow top young gun Rory McIlroy as they went out together in the final pairing.

But the Northern Irishman had an off-day that saw his hopes of completing the Grand Slam of all four major titles badly dented.

Next up will be the surprise packet of Kaufman, playing in just his second major and in the final pairing with the defending champion.

The 24-year-old from Alabama said that nobody would expect him to get the better of a player he has known since they were both juniors.

"He's probably 1,000-0. He's always beating me," Kaufman said.

"Granted, he was so much better than I was as a junior and amateur. I was kind of a late bloomer in that regard. Just kind of kept on getting better.

"I'm just going to play my golf, hit to my spots and just try to make some putts. I'm not going to put extra pressure on myself to try to catch him," he said.