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Spieth takes four-stroke lead into final round

Jordan Spieth acknowledges applause after a birdie on the 13th green during third round. (Associated Press)
Jordan Spieth acknowledges applause after a birdie on the 13th green during third round. (Associated Press)
Doug Ferguson Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth walked off the 18th green Saturday with another Masters record, a four-shot lead and a solemn look that suggested he knew he was still a long way off from being measured for a green jacket.

Spieth had a seven-shot lead with two holes to play and was on the same score – 18-under par – that only Tiger Woods had ever reached at Augusta National. Out of nowhere, he made a careless double bogey on the 17th hole. Ahead of him on the 18th, former U.S. Open champion Justin Rose poured in a birdie putt.

Just like that, the lead was nearly cut in half.

His gutsy short game saved him in the end. Spieth hit a flop shot from a tight lie to 10 feet and made the par putt for a 2-under 70. That steadied the 21-year-old Texan going into a final round that no longer looks like a runaway.

Spieth was at 16-under 200, breaking by one shot the 54-hole record at the Masters held by Woods in 1997 and Raymond Floyd in 1976.

On a day of charges and endless cheers, Spieth now gets to return and do this all over again.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Spieth said.

Rose closed with five birdies on his last six holes for a 67, and that birdie on the 18th put him in the final group for the first time in a major.

Phil Mickelson wore a pink shirt in honor of Arnold Palmer because he knew he needed a big charge, and the three-time Masters champion delivered a 67, despite two bogeys on the back nine. Mickelson was five shots behind.

Woods and Rory McIlroy will play together in the final round of a major for the first time – but they are 10 shots behind.

Spieth knew what he was facing even before he started.

Woods, who for three rounds has made everyone forget about that guy who shot 82 in the Phoenix Open earlier this year, ran off three straight birdies early in the round, and he threw a victorious fist pump after a most improbable birdie on the 13th hole. McIlroy made eagle on his second hole, went out in 32 and inched closer to Spieth on the back nine.

Both of them stalled.

McIlroy made bogey on two of the last three holes for a 68. Woods made a bogey from the bunker on the 18th for a 68.

For a short time in the afternoon, Spieth made the green jacket ceremony seem like a formality.

Four shots ahead of Charley Hoffman, Spieth buried a 10-foot putt on the 12th hole and another birdie from about the same distance at the 13th. He followed a three-putt bogey on the 14th hole by making two more birdies, and his lead was up to seven shots as the trees began casting long shadows. He looked in total control at what is the most peaceful time of the day at Augusta National.

And then it was shattered. Spieth chipped weakly to the 17th green and three-putted for a double bogey. It was a reminder how quickly comfort can vanish.

The story line should sound familiar – a 21-year-old with a four-shot lead going after his first major at Augusta National. Four years ago, that was McIlroy, who shot 80 in the final round.

Key hole: No. 18

Yardage: 465; Par: 4; Scoring average: 4.31; Rank: 4th; Key fact: Justin Rose rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt to earn a spot in the final pairing alongside leader Jordan Spieth. Spieth saved par with a 10-footer to take a four-shot lead into today.

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