Koepka holds on for 2-shot lead over Rahm in third round at Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Brooks Koepka held steady in the cold air and was potentially spared a big number by the rain-softened grass at Augusta National, finishing the third round at the Masters on Sunday morning with a 1-over 73 to keep a two-shot lead over Jon Rahm.
But it’s no longer a two-man race. The final round will not have Tiger Woods in his Sunday red shirt, either.
Woods never made it back to the course after enduring a miserable mix of cold and rain on Saturday. He withdrew with what he said was a recurrence of plantar fasciitis, the second time in his last three majors that he made the cut without making it to the finishing line.
Koepka has been atop the leaderboard after all three rounds, yet his work is far from over. Rahm had his chances to catch him until three-putt bogeys on both par 5s on the back nine, settling for a 73 that puts him in the final group.
Viktor Hovland was only three shots behind after a wild 70 that illustrated how quickly it can change at Augusta National, even in conditions that can make birdies difficult to find.
Hovland found them. He was 10 shots behind Koepka when he walked off the 10th green with a bogey, and then ran off five in a row starting on No. 11 and featuring a chip-in from behind the green on the par-3 12th.
When he was finished, that 10-shot deficit was very manageable.
Patrick Cantlay, who had three straight birdies in the rain early in the round on Saturday, had three birdies in a four-hole stretch late and wound up with a 68. He was five shots behind.
His hopes depended so much on Koepka and Rahm not creating more separation, and they obliged, each with a 38 on the back nine without making a birdie.
Rahm wasted two chances for birdie on the par 5s. Koepka missed par putts of 8 feet on the 12th and a little over 3 feet on the 17th.
Koepka’s big break came on the par-5 15th. He laid up after a tee shot to the left, and his pitching wedge spun back down the slope and was headed off the green. Such shots typically gain speed going down the hill toward the pond. The grass was soft and sticky enough that it allowed the ball to stop. Koepka putted from there to tap-in range for par.
Koepka was at 11-under 205 and had just under three hours before he went off for the final round in this weather-disjointed tournament.
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The sky was beginning to clear, the temperatures not so frigid and the course still soft from rain that caused play to be stopped on Saturday in the middle of the afternoon. Sunday afternoon had all the trappings of a typical final round at Augusta, filled with big opportunities and loud roars.
Koepka is going after his fifth major championship, and his first since his wire-to-wire win at Bethpage Black four years ago in the PGA Championship. The last three times he had at least a share of a lead in a major, he wound up winning.
It also would be boost for his new league, the Saudi-funded LIV Golf, where Koepka won just a week ago in Orlando against a 48-man field in a 54-hole tournament in Florida.
Rahm, the U.S. Open champion at Torrey Pines in 2021, has never played in the final pairing of a major championship. He was trying to become the fourth Spaniard in a green jacket. This is the 40-year anniversary of Seve Ballesteros — his idol — winning his second Masters.
Still in the mix but needing help were former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who along with Cantlay is the only player to have broken par all three rounds. He had a 70 and was six shots behind, along with Russell Henley (71).
U.S. Amateur champion Sam Bennett, playing in the final threesome of the third round with Rahm and Koepka, fell back with a 76.
Woods tied the Masters record by making his 23rd consecutive cut. This was the first time as a pro he didn’t finish all four rounds at Augusta National. He also withdrew after Saturday last year in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills when the cold and wind of Oklahoma made it difficult on him. Woods had been limping all week even in good weather.
The plantar fasciitis first surfaced late last year when he was trying to get ready to play his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. He played twice in December — a made-for-TV match over 12 holes and the PNC Championship over 36 holes — both times in a cart.
Woods played only once this year at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, then took off six weeks to prepare for the Masters. The next major is five weeks away at Oak Hill outside Rochester, New York, in the middle of May.
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