Brooks Koepka 'fine' with two-shot lead after third round in 87th Masters
After five-time winner Tiger Woods withdrew due to “reaggravating” his plantar fasciitis on Saturday before play got underway again in the season’s opening major, the overnight picture quickly changed dramatically.
Following the restart, Koepka, who is bidding to land his fifth major, missed from 14 feet to save par at the seventh, dropping only his second shot of the week and his first in 30 holes.
When Rahm, playing in the same group, then rolled in a nine-footer for birdie at the same hole, it was ‘game on’ all of a sudden and the next couple of hours proved truly fascinating.
As the sun started to peak out again following Saturday’s deluge in Georgia, the Spaniard then 12 feet to match a birdie from Koepka at the par-5 eighth.
On the day Seve Ballesteros would have turned 66 and also the 40th anniversary of his second win here, Rahm’s recovery from a greenside bunker to save par at the ninth would definitely have earned a nod of approval from his compatriot.
After blocking himself out off the tee at the tenth, Koepka had to play out sideways and still had close to 200 yards for his second shot but saved that situation by rolling in a 15-footer.
The LIV Golf player was then heavy-handed with his flatstick after pulling his tee shot at the 12th and a bogey there meant his advantage was down to just one shot.
Not for long as Rahm then made a sloppy 6 at the 13th and, when the 2021 US Open champion then missed the green on the right at the short 16th and also bogeyed that, he found himself three behind.
Koepka must have been kicking himself that he didn’t hold on that, three-putting the 17th after leaving his first attempt woefully short then missing from four feet.
Matching pars at the last left both players signing for one-over 73s, with Koepka sitting on 11-under and Rahm on nine-under.
However, what looked as though it had been turned into a two-horse race had developed into something more exciting.
Norwegian Viktor Hovland birdied five holes in a row from the 11th as he carded a 70 to move to eight-under, with former FedEx Cup winner Patrick Cantlay two shots further back after a 68.
However, Koepka remained the man to catch as he bids to add to a brace of wins in both the US Open and PGA Championship.
“I'm fine with two,” he said of his lead. “It's going to be an interesting afternoon. If the wind keeps blowing and keeps swirling like this down there, anything can happen. You've just got to be in control of your ball.”
Rahm is bidding to join Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia as Spanish winners of this event. “I thought it was good,” he said of his morning’s work. “It's not easy. Cold and windy.
“I wasn't making bad swings, just a couple of bad wind gusts at the wrong time and ended up seeing myself in tough positions. But feeling good, playing good, swinging well, so hopefully can keep it going. Should be a fun afternoon.”
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