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Leishman Gutsy But Slips Down Masters Leaderboard

Marc Leishman couldn't buy a putt in the third round at Augusta National to fall eight shots off the pace (Photo: Getty Images)
It was a 73 that must have felt like 78 though Marc Leishman’s Saturday score at Augusta could easily have been in the 60’s.

As putt after putt burned the edge for the laid-back Victorian, his final group playing partner Patrick Reed went on a rampage that included four birdies and two eagles and sent him three clear of Rory McIlroy.

But there were no fireworks for Leishman who, despite finishing 1-over and dropping from two behind to eight, should walk away with his head held high after what can only be described as a gritty performance on a tough day.

Leishman is still the best of the four Australians in the field at 6-under and T6 and despite being a long way behind has plenty to play for tomorrow.

Cameron Smith quietly moved two spots up the leaderboard with a 2-under 70 to now be 3-under for the week and T12.

He is two shots ahead of Jason Day at T15 while Adam Scott produced his best score of the tournament to move to 2-over for the week and T30.

But it was Leishman who carried the hopes of a nation into a gloomy Saturday at Augusta National and it was clear early on his game was not in the same place it had been the first two days.

CBS commentator Nick Faldo noted several times Leishman’s swing looked less free than it had Thursday and Friday and the shots he played confirmed it.

A snap hook off the second was one of  three poor drives for the day and found the hazard down the left though Leishman showed great composure in chipping out, hitting a long third to the green and saving par.

His second miscue with the driver came at seven, this time to the right, where despite a brilliant slice from the pine straw to find the front bunker he couldn’t get up and down and paid the price with his only bogey of the day.

His third, and worst, shot of the day came at the final hole where he hooked deep into the trees and seemingly had no shot after getting a drop away from a fence.

However, he conjured up one of the best of the day with a low punch with a long iron through a bush ahead of him to run within feet of the green and capped it off with a superb up and down for par.

In between he played solid though mostly unspectacular golf which left him with several makeable birdie opportunities that simply refused to fall.

He was agonisingly close for birdie at the third, fifth eighth, 9th, 10th, 13th, 16thand 17thand never really looked like making a big number all day.

While Leishman struggled to make any headway the his three countrymen all produced their best scores for the week.

Out early, Adam Scott felt the course was there for the taking and his 70 could have been considerably better.

“Today it felt easier,” he said. “Tee to green it was very good and missed three short putts so really I turned a 67, 68 into 70.”

Jason Day, too, felt he found something Saturday and after clawing his way into red figures is looking forward to the final round despite being out of contention. 

“We’re going to have an exciting day tomorrow and I’m looking forward to coming back and playing,” he said.

Scott and Day carried the greatest expectation into the tournament but it is the play of young Queenslander Cameron Smith which has again been a revelation.

Making just his second appearance at the Masters, Smith was under par heading into Saturday and but for a clumsy finish would be comfortably inside the top 10.

After reaching 5-under for the tournament with a spectacular iron to tap in range at the par-3 16thhe hit poor drives at each of the last two to give back shots but continues to mark himself a Masters contender of the future.

“I felt as though I left a few out there today, especially those last couple ,” he said.

“Just a couple of off drives.  Tough to take it on the chin but anything under par around here is good.”

He told FOX Sports’ Paul Gow he loved everything about the course and event and intended to be more aggressive in the final round. 

“It’s hard not to love it,” he said. “Just love the atmosphere out here and just love getting out here and showing everyone what I can do. It’s a very cool feeling.

“I’ll be a bit more aggressive tomorrow. I’ve been playing pretty conservative the first three days, we’re a million back at the moment but anything can happen so definitely fire a few more at the pin tomorrow.”

 

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