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The Masters: Hideki Matsuyama shoots the lights out to grip the green jacket by the collar

The Masters

A round he’ll never forget, regardless of the outcome on Sunday.

On ‘Moving Day’ at the Masters, Hideki Matsuyama produced a stunning exhibition of bloodless golf to surge through the field and take a commanding lead into the final round at Augusta National.

Three behind overnight leader Justin Rose at the start of play, Matsuyama hopped around Augusta in just 65 strokes to lead by four and stand on the precipice of his maiden major triumph.

In doing so, he became the first Japanese golfer to lead or co-lead at the end of a Masters round.

The Masters

Hideki Matsuyama.

Of course, given that it’s only Saturday, the five-time PGA Tour winner won’t care too much about that.

The only thing that matters to him is trying to bottle some of the brilliance he displayed down the stretch to vault himself into uncharted waters.

After a steady front half that yielded a single birdie, Matsuyama caught fire on the home nine, picking up birdies at 11 and 12 before putting daylight between himself and the field with an eagle-birdie-birdie run at 15, 16, 17.

Play was suspended for around an hour on Saturday evening due to bad weather, but Matsuyama weathered the storm and, when he emerged from an unexpected break, he found himself riding the crest of a move.

Matsuyama strung together a beautiful highlights reel around the back nine, but the most important moment unquestionably arrived off the back of the 18th green.

Having airmailed the green with his approach from the bunker, he showed impeccable touch and composure to cozy his delicate chip shot to kick-in distance.

The 29-year-old duly tapped in and completed the first bogey-round of the week. Destiny awaits him on Sunday.

Speaking of destiny, Rose may have something to say about the destination of the green jacket. The Englishman, who lost in a play-off to Sergio Garcia in 2017, remains firmly in the hunt despite an unspectacular Saturday when he seemed loose and at odds with his game.

Rose refused to wane during a difficult final few holes, however, and did well to match Friday’s 72, holing a fine putt on the 18th to keep Matsuyama just about within his reach.

Xander Schauffele, playing with Matsuyama, will once again find himself as one of the main protagonists on a Masters Sunday. The 27-year-old Californian finished tied-second behind Tiger Woods in 2019, but will hope to go one better after returning an impressive 68.

Rose and Schauffele are joined on seven-under by Australia’s Marc Leishman and debutant Will Zalatoris, who dug in deep during his round to fire a respectable 71.

Jordan Spieth, one of the favourites, did not bring his A-game but certainly contributed to the drama, pulling off a wonder shot on the eighth just prior to the weather delay before holing his birdie chip at 10.

The prodigiously gifted Texan missed a chance to close with a birdie and sits at five-under, six adrift of Matsuyama.

Justin Thomas, however, watched his challenge crumble, thanks in no small part to a disastrous triple-bogey eight at the 13th. The Players Champion will not – barring a miraculous Sunday charge and a Matsuyama collapse – will not be this year’s Masters winner.

Canada’s Corey Conners is not out of it, though. He is six-under and gave the galleries something to shout about with an ace at the sixth.

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