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Garcia and Rose take lead into Masters sunday

Will Garcia's name be atop the leaderboard tomorrow (Photo: Getty Images)
Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia are well poised to add yet another European name to the list of Masters winners, the pair taking a one shot lead over Rickie Fowler into the final round with another shot back to Jordan Spieth, Ryan Moore and long-time leader Charley Hoffman.

Only three of those inside the current top ten, Rose, Spieth and 7th placed and leading Australian, Adam Scott, are major championship winners so tomorrow offers the promise of not only another European winner but yet another first-time major winner.

For joint leader, Garcia, the breakthrough win, if it is to eventuate, would come at his 74th start in major championships, 21 years after playing his first at the 1996 Open Championship and at his 19th consecutive Masters. His previous best finish at Augusta National has been when he finished 4th in 2004 at his 6th start so this great opportunity has been a long time coming.

Garcia made the turn in even par 36 but then added birdies at the par five 13th and 15th and holed a very missable par saving putt at the last to ensure he would be playing with Rose tomorrow.  

“It was hard but it was fun to play well again and to get through a Saturday at the Masters with a chance of winning,” said Garcia. “I get to play tomorrow with Justin who is a friend of mine so it should be a great match up in that last group.”

Garcia is clearly playing with a lot greater peace of mind and he made mention of that in his press conference. “My mentality has kind of changed a little bit with the way I am taking things, particularly this week at Augusta.”

Garcia was referencing a lucky break he had received at the 13th when his second at the par five stayed on the bank instead of slipping back into the water.

“I feel like I have played the 13th well everyday and got nothing out of it and finally today I got a nice break.”

Garcia appears to be enjoying Augusta National much better than in the past and he talked about his relationship with the hallowed ground.

“It has certainly improved there is no doubt about that. There is nothing wrong with Augusta the main thing that has improved is the way I am looking at it in the last two or three years.

“I think it is the kind of place that if you try to fight against it is going to beat you down. You have just got to roll with it and realise that sometimes you are going to get good breaks and other times not so good breaks but at the end of the day that is part of the game.”  

Amongst the golfing fraternity there is great anticipation of Garcia breaking through for his first major championship but he is keeping a lid on things.

“It is not easy – having a chance to win a tournament is always exciting and to win here at Augusta is extra exciting so you do have to calm yourself down and not get ahead of yourself and try to cope with whatever comes your way the best way possible.”

Rose has a major to his name already and has an overall solid record at the Masters including when runner-up to Spieth in 2015. The Olympic Gold Medallist has been playing well for much of 2017 and was considered one of the chances coming in and is excited about the prospect of a breakthrough win around Augusta National.

Birdies on the final two holes have him in the share of the lead but while the strong finish was important, mathematically, he feels he would have been happy with his standing either way.

“Obviously I am in a great position going into tomorrow,” said Rose. “I think if I was two or three shots behind I would have still felt I was in a great position which leads me to understand everybody’s mindset that is behind me which means I have to stay positive tomorrow and play good aggressive golf like I did today.

“I feel like I have played well all week. I felt like after the first couple of rounds I could have been significantly lower than my score was but I have been very patient with that as I have known I have been playing well and today I began to feel very comfortable on the greens and things began to click.

“There are some wonderful storylines tomorrow. Obviously I am a major champion but I am looking for more and certainly for my first Masters and for my first green Jacket and this is a place I dearly love and would love to be part of the history here.

“I am certainly not at the point where I am getting ahead of myself. Tomorrow is a huge day. I have an opportunity and that’s all you want but really it starts on the back nine tomorrow. One shot leaked at the start of the day doesn’t really mean much – you are going to have to go out and play a good round of golf.”

While the focus will be on the final group, at least initially, as Rose suggests there are many storylines in addition to the final pairing.

Fowler, Moore and Hoffman are looking for their first major championship, Scott and Spieth are looking for their second Masters title, as is Charl Schwartzel who is just four from the lead and players as far back as even par perhaps still feel they have a chance of producing something special tomorrow and stealing victory from the jaws of defeat.

That group includes Lee Westwood and Thomas Pieters at 1 under par and Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, William McGirt, John Rahm, Matt Kuchar and Soren Kjeldsen at even par.

Pieters, McGirt and Rahm would become the first player since 1979 to win the Masters on debut so the back stories to so many of tomorrows contenders are almost unlimited while for the likes of Kuchar, Westwood, Kjeldsen and Casey a win would mean their first major title after such long and successful careers.

They will need something special to do so but that is exactly what Masters Sunday is - something special.             

 

 

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