HeÂs had good rounds at the Masters before, but Tim ClarkÂs third round at Augusta National on Saturday may be one of the most important of his life.
He carded a five-under-par 67 to vault into contention at three-under-par for the tournament, four off the pace set by Brandt Snedeker and 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera, and in the process booked himself a round with Tiger Woods for the final day.
That the 67 came just a day after he stumbled his way to a second-round 76 when his putting deserted him Â he took 34 putts on Friday Â was something of a surprise, even to him.
ÂI just kind of went home and tried to forget about it and just come out with a good attitude again,Â he said of the frustration he felt. ÂI mean, thatÂs all you can do. The worst thing I could have done yesterday was probably go and practice and grind over it. I just had to kind of let it go. I didnÂt know what to expect today, but I got out and made a few nice putts early, and thatÂs how you get the confidence rolling.Â
He didnÂt even practice putting ahead of his third round, and he also managed to get lucky and catch the course cold as he raced to the best round of the day. ÂI thought IÂve shot better rounds than that out there, but it was gettable for me today being firmer, the fairways being firmer anyway, and going off early, the front nine, the greens are somewhat receptive, so I was able to get some birdies early and sort of try and hang on,Â he said.
ClarkÂs score was his lowest in his 12 Masters appearances. He had broken 70 only twice, shooting 69 in the final round in 2006 and 68 in the first round of 2009. And this time, he took only 24 putts.
His run of four consecutive birdies from the fourth to the seventh has been a rare feat at Augusta National. Clark became the fifth player in Masters history to birdie those holes in succession, joining Johnny Miller in 1975, Isao Aoki in 1977, Jack Nicklaus in 1981 and Bob Gilder in 1982.
Behind him, Branden Grace had the next best round of the South Africans remaining in the field. He carded a one-under-par 71 to climb into a share of 33rd place.
2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel went three-over in the third round to be one-over for the tournament, eight off the pace. Ernie Els was one shot further back, one ahead of Grace, and Richard Sterne was four-over after his third-round 75. Trevor Immelman was the last of the South Africans, his 78 dropping him to five-over for the tournament.