Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson share third-round lead at the Masters

April 13, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – After two rounds of stellar golf, Bubba Watson stumbled a bit on moving day at the Masters.

Watson had four bogeys on the front side Saturday – twice as many as he had in the first two rounds combined – and failed to pull away from an emboldened group of challengers that included 20-year-old Jordan Spieth.

Already the youngest player since the Depression to win on the PGA Tour, Spieth showed he might be ready to make a run at becoming a major champion. A birdie at the 15th pushed the Texan to 2 under on the day, 5 under for the tournament and just one stroke behind Watson.

PHOTOS: Best shots of Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth and Miguel Angel Jimenez from the third round of the 2014 Masters

Matt Kuchar was the leader in the clubhouse after shooting a 4-under 68 that left him at 4-under 212 overall. Fifty-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez (66) and 25-year-old Ricky Fowler (67) were another stroke back among those who had finished the third round.

Watson, the 2012 Masters champion, posted two rounds in the 60s to start the tournament, giving him a three-stroke lead and the largest 36-hole edge since Chad Campbell in 2006.

By the time he made the turn in front of the historic clubhouse and that big oak tree, Watson's lead was gone. He got it back with a birdie at the 10th, but a three-putt par at the par-5 13th kept things close. Related Stories

It was shaping up to be a wide-open Sunday with Tiger Woods on the sideline for the first time in his career, recovering from back surgery. Jim Furyk, Thomas Bjorn and Jonas Blixt were all in the mix. So was Lee Westwood, in with a 214 after shooting 70. Fifty-four-year-old Fred Couples held up just fine, too, with an even-par score on a picturesque day as he approached the end of his round.

Watson bogeyed the first hole, then struck a brilliant approach shot that rolled up about 5 feet from the flag to set up an eagle 3 at the second. That would be his only highlight on the front side; he bogeyed both par-3s as well as the seventh to surrender what had seemed like a fairly comfortable lead not more than an hour earlier.

Jimenez shot a 66 that was the best round of the tournament thus far, and matched the lowest ever for a senior golfer at Augusta National.

The Spaniard known as ''The Mechanic'' finished up with a par at the 18th about the time Watson was teeing off at the adjacent first hole, having sliced a 10-shot deficit to just four by taking advantage of warm, sunny conditions with barely a hint of the swirling breezes that can make Augusta so treacherous.

''I played very solid all day long,'' Jimenez said. ''A beautiful day here.''

Jimenez turned 50 in January and will make his debut on the Champions Tour at an event in suburban Atlanta next weekend.

In the meantime, he claimed a spot in the Masters record book, matching the lowest score ever by a player 50 and older. Ben Hogan was 54 when he shot 66 during the third round of the 1967 tournament, and Couples matched it at age 50 during the opening round in 2010.

''Just because you are 50 does not mean you cannot play golf,'' said Jimenez, one of six 50-and-older golfers to make the Masters cut. ''I'm still flexible. I hit the ball longer than ever.''

Jimenez has never won a major championship but he's been a perennial contender in the biggest events, capturing a new generation of fans with his unique stretching routine before each round, his long ponytail, and his fondness for wine and cigars.

If he can put together another stellar round on Sunday, he sees no reason why he can't become the oldest major champion in golf history.

''The main thing is probably that I like what I am doing in my life,'' Jimenez said. ''I enjoy competing.''

That wasn't the only new entry in the Masters record book.

Gary Woodland matched the lowest score ever on the front nine with a 6-under 30, and actually got his score to 7 under with another birdie at the 10th. But the 29-year-old American couldn't keep it going through Amen Corner, where a bogey at the 11th and a double-bogey on 12 stifled his momentum.

Woodland struggled down the stretch and settled for a 69, which left him at 216.

Defending champion Adam Scott couldn't get anything going, his chances of becoming only the fourth back-to-back winner in Masters history fading away with an ugly 40 on the front side. He double-bogeyed the fourth and bogeyed three other holes before the turn.

But plenty of others were ready to seize the spotlight.