Snedeker, Cabrera Share Masters Lead After Three Rounds

Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera are tied for the lead entering the final round at golf’s Masters Tournament, while Australians hold the next three spots and Tiger Woods trails by four strokes.

Snedeker and Cabrera, the 2009 Masters winner, are 7-under par through 54 holes after rounds of 3-under 69 yesterday at Augusta National Golf Club. They’ll tee off at 2:40 p.m. local time in today’s final pairing in Augusta, Georgia.

The Masters winner has come from the final pairing 19 of the past 22 years, though the past two years have been exceptions. The third-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win in 41 of the previous 76 Masters tournaments.

“I’m mentally fresh and physically fresh, and this is what I’ve worked my whole life for,” said Snedeker, who was the 2012 U.S. PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup champion. “So I’m really excited about what (today) holds.”

Adam Scott is 6 under, one shot ahead of fellow Australians Jason Day and Marc Leishman as final-round play began this morning at the season’s first major championship. The Masters is the only one of the four major tournaments that’s never been won by an Australian golfer. While Day tied for second in 2011, Greg Norman was a runner-up three times in Augusta, most famously in 1996, when he blew a six-shot lead in the final round and was beaten by Nick Faldo.

“To win the Masters would be incredible. It would be great for Australia,” said Scott, who also shot 69 yesterday and is seeking his first major title in 48 tries. “We’ve never looked better odds-wise going into the final round, other than that one year in ’96. It’s going to be a great final round.”

Crowded Leaderboard

The Australians are among 15 players within six shots of the leaders, a group that includes Matt Kuchar at 4-under par and Woods, who is tied with Tim Clark at 3-under par.

Woods shot a 2-under 70 yesterday after learning before the round that he’d been penalized two shots for an improper drop during the second round. Instead of a three-shot deficit, Woods started the third round five strokes off the lead for “playing from the wrong place” when he took his drop after his third shot hit the flag stick on the par-5 15th hole and ricocheted backward into the pond in front of the green.

Woods wasn’t disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard because the rules committee reviewed the incident and made its initial determination prior to the finish of Woods’s second round, competition committee chairman Fred Ridley said. Woods said he made a mistake and it was a proper ruling that he was penalized rather than being disqualified.

“I’m right there in the ballgame,” said Woods, who is seeking his fifth Masters victory and first major title since

2008. “As of right now I’m four back with a great shot to win this championship.”

Recent Comebacks

Woods is scheduled to tee off with Clark at 2:10 p.m., three groups before the co-leaders.

Last year, Bubba Watson overcame a three-shot deficit entering the final round to win in a playoff. In 2011, Charl Schwartzel birdied the final four holes to rally for the win.

Cabrera had birdies at two of the final three holes yesterday and will be seeking to become the 17th player to win multiple Masters titles. Snedeker birdied three of the final six holes to move into a share of the lead after starting the third round with 12 straight pars.

‘Baiting You’

“This is a golf course that’s baiting you into making a mistake,” Snedeker said after his first bogey-free round at the Masters in six appearances. “That’s one thing I’ve learned around here, you have to pick your spots.”

Two-time champion Bernhard Langer of Germany is 2-under along with Englishman Lee Westwood and Americans Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler. Nick Watney and Bo Van Pelt of the U.S. and Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are the only other players below par for the tournament, at 1-under.

Fred Couples, the 53-year-old former Masters winner, shot a 75 yesterday to slip back to even par after beginning the day one stroke out of the lead. Defending champion Watson is 2-over after a third-round 70, while three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson is 8-over after a 77, matching his worst score in 81 career rounds at the Masters.

“I’m just not hitting very good golf shots, missing it in bad spots and not really knowing which side I’m going to miss it on,” said Mickelson, who had double bogeys at the 12th and 13th holes. “So my play has been beyond terrible, and that’s certainly disappointing.”

McIlroy Slumps

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who is second to Woods in the Official World Golf Ranking, struggled to a third-round 79 that left him 5-over. Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old Chinese amateur who is the youngest player in a major golf championship in 148 years, is 9-over after a 77 yesterday.

Keegan Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA Championship, has the worst score among the 61 players who qualified for the final two rounds at 12-over after an 82 yesterday. He started play today at 9:20 a.m., with Guan following in a pairing with 55-year-old Sandy Lyle, the 1988 Masters winner who last year was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

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