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Masters final round: Setting the stage for drama, history

Final Round Update – PGA Tour – The Masters Tournament – Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia  —

MastersDefending champion Jordan Spieth continues to set records at Augusta National – leading now for the seventh straight round – but he is also bringing hope to a group of contenders heading into the final round of The Masters.

Spieth’s bogey-double bogey finish Saturday in round three opened the door and sparked the interest of a number of players now within striking distance. He logged two doubles on the back-nine.

Spieth (3-under) leads Smylie Kaufman by a single stroke at Augusta with Sunday’s calmer weather conditions expected to improving scoring up and down the leader board. The final pair tee off at 2:45 p.m. local time.

A host of players including 58-year-old, two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer lurk just two shots back. He is tied with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama at 1-under through 54 holes. Matsuyama, 14th in the world rankings, captured the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. He might be the biggest concern for Spieth. The 23-year-old earned the week at 38-to-1 odds at Silverton Casino in Las Vegas.

Langer moved up the leader board Saturday with a stretch of bir

Jordan Spieth current official PGA TOUR headshot (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) ***Local Caption*** Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth current official PGA TOUR headshot
(Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) ***Local Caption*** Jordan Spieth

dies on the back nine. Earlier in the week, he was listed at 500-1 odds to win the Green Jacket. Langer and Matsuyama tee off just ahead of the final pair at 2:35 p.m.

Kaufman, 49th in the Official World Golf Ranking, won his maiden PGA Tour title at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last fall to help kick off the 2015-2016 wrap-around schedule. He was listed as a ‘Field’ bet at 33-1 odds.

Look for a charge from players at Even Par and 1-over.

Those players have a new opportunity thanks to Spieth’s late-round slip up Saturday. World No. 1 Jason Day and Dustin Johnson headline those at even par. They play together Sunday. Also in the mix at even and T-5 is European Tour star Danny Willett, who plays alongside Lee Westwood (1-over).

Also at 1-over is Brandt Snedeker, who is a dangerous player and hot putter. Sneds is 17th in the world ranking, led FedEx Cup for much of the first part of the season and won at Torrey Pines in late January.

Willett finished second to Rory McIlroy in the Race to Dubai last season and won a big event at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February.

Keep in mind that 21 of the last 25 winners at Augusta came out of the final pairing. But, this year is proving to have a different feel. Case in point: Spieth won last year at PGA TOUR18-under. This year’s champion could be a dozen shots off that tally.

Other Masters News:

  • McIlroy, who shot 77 Saturday and slipped to T-11, failed to make a single birdie Saturday playing in the final pairing with Spieth, which snapped his run of 80 straight major championship rounds with a birdie.
  • Spieth, who is trying to become the fourth player to capture back-to-back victories at The Masters, flew in his coach overnight to work out some issues. If he can keep it together Sunday, it could be a historic moment for t
    Hideki Matsuyama current official PGA TOUR headshot (Photo by: Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) *** Local Caption *** Hideki Matsuyama

    Hideki Matsuyama current official PGA TOUR headshot
    (Photo by: Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) *** Local Caption *** Hideki Matsuyama

    he 22-year-old.

  • Matsuyama is trying to become the first Japan-born player to win a major championship.
  • With a victory, Kaufman would become just the third player (not counting the first Masters) to win the Green Jacket in his first appearance. Fuzzy Zoeller last accomplished that feat in 1979.
  • Seven of the last 10 winners at Augusta have been in their 30s. And, the last European-born player to capture the Green Jacket was in 1999.
  • A Langer victory would eclipse Jack Nicklaus’ triumph in 1986 — when he was 46 years old – to become the oldest Masters winner in history.