Charley Hoffman finally cracked. And now the 81st Masters Tournament is wide open.
The normally steady Hoffman, who led by two early midway through the second nine, dropped three shots to par in the final five holes Saturday, opening a door that England’s Justin Rose and Spain’s Sergio Garcia quickly walked through.
Rose, who had the day’s low round with 5-under-par 67, shares the lead with Garcia (70). They are at 6-under-par 210 for 54 holes. Five-under won the green jacket last year.
“I’m a major champion and I want more,” said Rose, who won the 2013 U.S. Open and claimed the Olympic gold medal in Rio in August. “I’m certainly looking for my first Masters and my first green jacket.”
Rose played in the final group when Jordan Spieth won in 2015 with a record-tying score, finishing at 14-under 274 that year, which tied for lowest non-winning score and has been bettered only six times in tournament history.
“I’m certainly not getting ahead of myself,” Rose said. “Tomorrow is a huge day. I have an opportunity. That’s all you want but really it starts on the back nine on Sunday. A one-shot lead starting the day doesn’t mean much. You’re going to have to go out and play a good round of golf, and I think there’s going to be four or five guys pretty much with the same mindset tomorrow. I have to continue to play good, aggressive golf, as I did today.”
Garcia would love to celebrate fellow countryman Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday Sunday with a victory. Ballesteros, who died in 2011, won two green jackets among his five majors, as did fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal.
“They were both my big idols growing up,” Garcia said. “So it means a lot. I mean, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I don’t even know how much it would mean to be able to join both of my idols as a Masters winner. You know, it would be nice to have a chance and hopefully do it.”
On the 20th anniversary of Tiger Woods’ record-setting victory, which he led by nine shots after three rounds and turned the final round into a formality, this isn’t expected to be a runaway.
Not with six players within four shots of the lead, and eight more within five shots.
“Anything can happen on a Sunday at Augusta,” said early finisher Jason Day, who had 69 but is nine shots off the lead. “Guys can either melt down or guys can come from behind and win big.”
One shot off the lead is Rickie Fowler, who shot 71 and is in his best position to win his first major.
“I haven’t hit it my best this week, but I know we can pull out our best stuff tomorrow,” said Fowler, whose birdies on Saturday came on the four par-5s.
Next is Spieth, who opened with 75. He has followed that with 69 on Friday and 68 on Saturday to move to within two shots of the lead.
Only one player – Craig Stadler in 1982 – shot as high as 75 in the first round and went on to win. Spieth didn’t have to come back to win his first Masters title, but this wouldn’t be the first time in his career he’s chased down the leaders to win.
Also two shots back are Ryan Moore (69 on Saturday) and Hoffman, who had 72. Hoffman lost his lead when he made double bogey on No. 16. He’d also bogeyed No. 14, and played his final five holes in 3-over.
Former Masters champion Adam Scott (69) is three shots back and Charl Schwartzel (68), another wearer of the green jacket, is four back. Lee Westwood, a runner-up last year and in search of his first major title at age 43, had 68 and is five back as is Masters rookie Thomas Pieters (75).
“You’ve got some studs up there,” said Spieth, looking at the leaderboard.
Spieth referenced his meltdown last year when a quadruple bogey on No. 12 cost him the lead and the tournament when he said, “I know anything can happen.”
This is just another typical Sunday at the Masters for Spieth, who has finished second, first and second in his three starts.
“Waking up and you have a chance to win your favorite tournament that you’ve dreamt of winning and competing in since you were a kid, and to be able to have your fourth opportunity now … I didn’t know going into my first one if I would have five chances in my life. So it’s awesome.
“And at the same time, I’ve been on both sides of it now, and I like the winning side better,” Spieth said. “So I’m certainly going to go for broke tomorrow.”
Garcia made a 7-foot par putt on the 18th hole to earn a spot in the final pairing with Rose, at 2:45 p.m. It’s a good place to be since the winner has come out of that group 21 of the past 26 years. Last year was an exception to the rule as Danny Willett came out of the third-to-last group to win.
The second-to-last group Sunday, off at 2:35 p.m., will feature good friends Spieth and Fowler.
The two veterans seeking to become the oldest Masters champions slid down the leaderboard Saturday. Phil Mickelson, 46, started the day four shots off the lead but shot 74 and is now eight back. And Fred Couples, 57, three back after opening rounds of 73-70, also had 74 and is seven back.