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Spieth surges level with erratic Bubba

Alex Perry
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Jordan Spieth showed nerves of steel © Getty Images
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Defending champion Adam Scott and 20-year-old Texan Jordan Spieth were paired together during the third round of the Masters.

Guess which one went on to end the day tied top of the leaderboard?

Spieth, who earned his spot at Augusta with his maiden PGA Tour victory at the 2013 John Deere Classic, rolled home four birdies en route to a 70 that saw him move level with Bubba Watson, who endured a frustrating Saturday at Augusta.

The beautiful irony, of course, is that the next time Scott and Spieth shake hands could be on Sunday evening, shortly before Scott passes on golf's most famous item of clothing.

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"All in all it was a day about controlling the nerve and staying patient - and I'm surprised at how I did it," Spieth said. "It was the best round of golf I've played mentally and tomorrow I have to do even better."

Spieth already has a slice of Masters history - on Sunday he will become the youngest player to ever play in the tournament's final pairing down the stretch. He is also only the third player to debut with three sub-par rounds at the Masters. Ben Crenshaw did it in 1972 and went on to finish in a tie for 19th as the low amateur before Fuzzy Zoeller - who went on to win - matched it in 1979.

If he wins, he will surpass Tiger Woods as the youngest player to slip into the green jacket by six months.

Watson himself is planning on writing his own page in the Augusta record books. Victory on Sunday would see him become just the eighth player to win the Masters twice within three years. Perhaps more surprisingly, is he would be the first American to become a multiple major champion since Phil Mickelson picked up the PGA Championship in 2005.

But it was a mixed round for Watson with more lows than highs. He opened with a bogey at the tricky par-4 first before a shot-of-the-day contender at the second to set up his first eagle of the week.

But bogeys followed at four, six and seven and Watson cut a frustrated figure at the turn. He knew he had blown a chance really add to his overnight three-shot lead - with others around him taking advantage of the good scoring conditions on the front nine.

Watson will, however, gain hope from the fact he played the far more difficult back nine in level par - with a birdie at 10 cancelled out by a dropped shot at 16.

The pair lead Matt Kuchar and Jonas Blixt by one.

Kuchar, who finished third to Watson two years ago, made steady progress throughout the round with birdies at two, three and nine before a dropped shot at 11 halted the charge. But three straight gains from the 13th saw him join the leaders at 5-under before a second bogey at 18 spoiled an otherwise near-perfect day.

Blixt, another Masters debutant, was slightly more erratic. The Swede also reached 5-under thanks to birdies at five and nine, but they were cancelled out by two bogeys in Amen Corner. Birdies followed at 15 and 16 before a final drop at 17 saw him settle for a 71.

Bubba Watson cut a frustrated figure around Augusta on Saturday © Getty Images
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Miguel Angel Jimenez put himself in contention to be the oldest major champion in history with the lowest round of the week so far to move to 3-under par.

The 50-year-old Spaniard carded a 66 thanks to birdies at three, five, 10, 11, 13, 14 and 16. His only dropped shot was at the par-3 12th when he needed two attempts to get out of a greenside bunker.

The oldest major champion to date is Jack Nicklaus following his Masters victory in 1986 at the age of 46, but Jimenez remains cautious of his chances to emulate the 18-time major champion.

"I may be 50," he said, before pointing to his head, "but up here I'm still 20.

"It was nice and I felt great out there today. The weather is perfect, the course is perfect and I holed some putts. I left some birdies out there but I'm happy with 66.

"I've had an amazing career and it would be great to add a major to it. But there is a lot of golf still to play by a lot of good golfers and you never know what's going to happen.

"I like the feeling of that knot in my stomach. I feel that thing since Monday when I got here, it doesn't disappear. I love that kind of pressure, that's why I'm still competing.

"Experience is always very important, and it's about passion and staying calm. This golf course is demanding, you need to be very strong mentally."

Rickie Fowler joined Jimenez at 3-under, but missed a seven-footer at 18 that would have seen him also card a 66.

But Fowler was happy with his work. He said: "I knew it was going to be tough but I had to just eliminate as many mistakes as I could and take advantage of the par-5s, which I did [with birdies at all four].

"To support Bubba two years ago in the play-off and be around to witness that made me want to be part of it and it's good to be in contention for tomorrow."

Lee Westwood carded a 70 to move to 2-under par, and decided to get philosophical about it in his post-round interview. "Nobody wants to see Lee Westwood win a major more than Lee Westwood and we will just have to see what happens tomorrow," he said.

The Englishman is joined by veterans Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn, while Justin Rose, Kevin Stadler, Fred Couples and John Senden are at 1-under - meaning 13 players head into Sunday's round below par.

Lee Westwood again found difficulties with the putter © Getty Images
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