AMERICAN 2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson heads into the back nine at Augusta National in the box seat for Masters glory.
Watson posted a three-under 33 on the front side to shoot to eight-under par for the tournament, putting a two shot gap between himself and 20-year-old phenomenon Jordan Spieth.
Australian hopes of a repeat green jacket winning performance are all but gone, with John Senden the leading Australian at even par for the tournament in a tie for 10th but with holes running out.
Spieth charged out of the blocks early with two quick birdies and by the seventh was leading Watson by two.
But as Watson made back-to-back birdies to close the front side Spieth carded bogeys for a four shot swing heading into the critical final nine.
Adam Scott's chances to defend the green jacket were cruelled by further dismal putting, stopping any thoughts of a charge.
He started six shots back in his quest to be just the fourth player to go back-to-back at Augusta National but bogeyed two of the opening three holes to set his challenge well back on its heels.
Birdies on seven, eight and nine to close the front side allowed the first Australian to win the green jacket a small glimmer of hope, leaving him seven off the pace heading into the important final nine.
But there was no charge. He's one-over on the backside with just a hole to play.
Senden was inside the top five after 13 holes but made double bogey on 14 to drop him out of the mix.
He's now looking to stay inside the top 12 to ensure an invitation to next years event.
Spieth, at just 20 years of age, is trying to become the youngest Masters champion in history.
He sent the patrons into raptures by holing out from a bunker for birdie on the fourth hole.
Jason Day is tied for 15th through 17 holes, Steven Bowditch (72) finished four-over in his debut Masters and Oliver Goss finished off his Silver Cup winning run at 10-over par with a final round 75.
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