Charl Schwartzel fired his best round of the 75th Masters when he carded a four-under-par 68 in the third round on Saturday to move into a share of second going into the final round.
But heÂs going to have to pull a rabbit out of his hat if he is to chase down the incredible Rory McIlroy, who was four shots clear of the chasing pack after his third-round 70.
But Schwartzel intends to use that four-stroke gap to motivate him. ÂI think especially tomorrow, there will be lots of pressure on the guy that is leading,Â he said.
ÂItÂs tough to say what will win,Â he added. ÂItÂs difficult to put a score on it. This golf course is hard. YouÂve got to play and just play your best. I reckon if I shoot another 68, IÂm going to be really close. Who knows.Â
While McIlroy made two bogeys in his third round Â his second and third of the week Â so did Schwartzel in a round which typified the kind of grit needed to win a major.
ÂIÂm really happy the way I played today,Â he said. ÂI stuck in there really well when I was in trouble, took my punishment and made really good saves and just sort of kept myself in it. It was always going to be a tough day. Saturday afternoon is never easy around here. The greens were getting firm, and a little bit of wind was making it really interesting.Â
In SchwartzelÂs favour was the fact that he has been getting better over Augusta National during the week. His four-under-third round was the second best total of the day.
Angel Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion, snuck up into a share of second with Schwartzel, KJ Choi and Jason Day with a five-under-par 67 Â a score equalled only by Bubba Watson who found himself in a share of ninth place, seven shots off McIlroyÂs 12-under total.
McIlroy got himself into a position which appears almost impregnable with a finish of three birdies in the final five holes after he had bogeyed the fifth and the 10th to temporarily surrender the lead he had held since the opening round to Day and Choi.
But his game stayed rock-solid, as he swung freely off the tees, hit his irons as securely as anyone else, and putted with what seemed to be prescience.
And the exclamation point to his performance on the day came on the 17th after his tee shot had started right and finished in the second cut on the left.
He unfurled a high hook around some trees and flew the ball to the back of the green, some 30 feet from the pin. He calmly rolled in the putt which broke two ways, and, for the first time during the week, pumped his fist vigorously and gestured triumphantly with his putter.
For Schwartzel, who has seen McIlroy every night at the house rented by Chubby Chandler, the agent they share, the 21-year-old seems to be cruising. ÂWe have had some good meat at the house; maybe thatÂs the key,Â he joked.
Schwartzel knows how to win Â and he knows how to do it with a lead going into the final round, and how to overcome a deficit.
ÂI sort of prefer when youÂre leading, you have a cushion to ride on,Â he said. ÂBut IÂve won from the front and IÂve won from behind. It doesn’t matter; itÂs still the fourth round and youÂve got to play good golf.Â
Someone who will have to play the kind of golf he played in the second round as opposed to the third is Tiger Woods, who slipped to a two-over 74 and a share of ninth.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson is at three-under and 2008 champion Trevor Immelman at one-under.
Ernie Els continued his battle with the course and his putter and finished his third round in four-over 76 to be five-over for the tournament.