In a dramatic climax to Saturday’s play at Augusta National, Rose holed a bunker shot at the 16th and a 25ft birdie putt on 18 as Spieth suffered a late slip. The gap between the pair suddenly reduced to four. The 21-year-old Spieth will therefore have the 2013 US Open champion for last-day company when trying to win his first major championship.
“Given the choice, you’d want to be in the last group,” Rose said. “You want to be seeing what you’re up against, you want to feel the atmosphere. You want to get a look at how the guys play next to you, especially when you get to 12, 13, 14, 15 on the back nine here.
“It was nice to stay patient and get rewarded with a hot finish. It’s amazing and it put me in with a great opportunity tomorrow now. It’s a great lesson, as well, to stay patient, because you never know when you’re going to get your run.”
Phil Mickelson, who has won three Masters, is a shot behind Rose. The biggest test of Spieth’s mental strength is approaching; Rory McIlroy conceded an identical 54-hole advantage in 2011. Spieth last year held a share of the lead with Bubba Watson after three rounds but finished three shots back in a tie for second, when he could have become the youngest Masters victor.
“I’m a long way from winning this tournament but in a position I am happy with,” Spieth said. “I think I finished my second round 24 hours before I started my next; and with a big lead, that’s tough.
“I was just anxious to get started, but when I got out there and saw a couple of putts go in, I felt really comfortable. And that’s good. That gives me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow.
“The downside was that I had to make a lot of putts today and I’m not going to be able to have that tomorrow. I can’t rely on my mid-range putts. I can’t rely on the putter that much to save me with two major champions right behind.”
His advantage could easily have slipped further at the last, when he sliced his approach into the crowd. “I was very pleased with that up and down on 18. It took some guts to hit that flop shot and the par putt was huge, one of the biggest putts I have ever hit.”
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