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Posted April 13, 2019 09:04 pm
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Masters rookie Justin Harding stays in contention

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    Justin Harding chips up on the opening hole Saturday. The South African fought ups and downs for a round of 70. [ANDY NELSON/FOR THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

Justin Harding, the only Masters Tournament rookie among the top 11 players after 54 holes, didn’t have his “best stuff” Saturday, but he stayed in contention.

The South African, who got in the field March 31 by being in the top 50 in the world golf ranking, birdied Nos. 12, 13, 15 and 17 on the back nine Saturday for 2-under-par 70. At 8-under 208, he’s five shots off the lead of Francesco Molinari.

“I’m having a good time, I really am,” the 33-year-old Harding said. “It’s nice to be in contention among the big boys. All of them that I’ve bumped into and spoken to have all been very nice. Just having a good time.”

Being five back, Harding said “I’ve got nothing to lose” in the final round. “Try to make some money and post a decent result.”

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Harding had a chance to make some Masters history if he could have broken 70 on Saturday after opening with a pair of 69s. No one in Masters history as done it for all four rounds, and Harding and Adam Scott were the only ones in the 60s in the first two rounds. Scott had 72 on Saturday.

Harding's birdie chip from behind the 18th green was came up a foot short, but he was just happy to par No. 18 after making bogey there the first two days.

“That tee shot is giving me nightmares, but I managed to put a good swing on it and put it in play,” Harding said. “I thought I hit a really good second shot. I thought I striped it right over the flag and I got no claps. But it ran over.”

Harding has enjoyed success on one of the most famous holes on the course, the par-3 12th. He parred it in the first round and made birdie Friday and Saturday. He talked to fellow countryman Ernie Els, a 23-time Masters participant and two-time runner-up, about it last week at the Texas Open.

“Ernie gave me a pretty good pointer last week in San Antonio,” Harding said. “He said just aim between the bunkers. You can make pars and bogeys out of the bunkers but you obviously need to take a big number off the card.”