Scottie Scheffler leads Masters by 1 shot entering final round

April 13, 2024, 9:19 PM

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The last time Scottie Scheffler slept on a lead going into the final round of the Masters in 2022, he woke up Sunday morning and cried with his wife, Meredith, because of the pressure.

Scheffler, who is the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, is sleeping on another lead heading into Sunday's final round of the 88th Masters. He overcame a couple of rare mistakes to post a 1-under 71 in Saturday's third round for a 54-hole total of 7 under.

Two-time major championship winner Collin Morikawa is 1 stroke back after carding a 3-under 69. Max Homa is 2 back at 5 under, followed by Sweden's Ludvig Åberg at 4 under and LIV Golf League captain Bryson DeChambeau at 3 under.

Two years ago, Scheffler, then aged 25, had captured his first three PGA Tour victories in six weeks and ascended to No. 1 in the world. The Texan had a 3-stroke lead over Australia's Cameron Smith and wasn't sure he was ready for the biggest moment of his career at Augusta National Golf Club.

"I cried like a baby this morning," Scheffler said then. "I was so stressed out. I didn't know what to do. I was sitting there telling Meredith, 'I don't think I'm ready for this. I'm not ready. I don't feel like I'm ready for this kind of stuff, and I just felt overwhelmed.'"

Scheffler's wife assured him that he was ready, and that he didn't have control of what was going to happen over the final 18 holes at Augusta National Golf Club. Scheffler carded a 1-under 71 in the final round and beat Rory McIlroy by 3 shots to win his first major championship.

Scheffler's wife won't be with him in Augusta on Sunday morning. She's back at their home in Dallas, expecting their first child sometime later this month. Scheffler didn't want to be alone in his house this weekend, so he invited friends over for breakfast before the third round. He planned to be with them again Saturday night.

Two years ago, Scheffler's meteoric rise from a golfer who couldn't win to one who couldn't stop winning took a toll on him.

"Going into Sunday, Meredith and I were just a little bit emotional about what was going on at the time because our lives were changing at a very rapid pace," Scheffler said Saturday. "Now, I think we have settled more into where our lives are at, and right now the most exciting thing is not winning the Masters -- it's a baby coming pretty soon. Things are a lot different now, and I feel like we've both matured."

Scheffler's maturity as a golfer was on display at Augusta National on Saturday. After starting the third round as a co-leader with DeChambeau and Homa, Scheffler took the solo lead when he chipped in for birdie on No. 1 and then made a 32-foot birdie putt on No. 3 to move to 8 under.

After making a bogey on No. 4, Scheffler made the turn at 1-under 35 and had a 1-stroke lead over Morikawa, Homa and Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard.

Things began to unravel for Scheffler on the par-4 10th. His approach shot bounced off the green and into bushes behind it. He chipped out 63 feet past the hole. He nearly made the birdie putt coming back, but then inexplicably missed a 4-foot par putt. The double-bogey dropped him to 5 under.

On the par-4 11th, Scheffler chipped to 5 feet and missed the par putt. He was 4 under and 2 strokes behind Morikawa, Homa and Hojgaard.

Scheffler turned things around with an eagle on the par-5 13th after reaching the green in two shots and sinking a 31-foot downhill putt to get back to 6 under. He made another birdie with an 11-footer on the 15th. He made a bogey on the 17th, but rebounded with an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th to maintain the solo lead.

The other golfers at the top of the leaderboard had their chances after Scheffler faltered. Morikawa had birdies on the first three holes to move to 6 under. He made pars on his final 10 holes. Morikawa can capture the third leg of the career Grand Slam after winning the 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 Open Championship.

Homa, who is looking for his first major championship victory after winning six times around the world since February 2021, had a bogey on the par-3 12th and 17 pars on Saturday. Homa hasn't made a birdie in his past 32 holes.

Aberg, who was playing golf at Texas Tech a year ago, had a birdie on No. 13 to move to 6 under and grab a share of the lead, but then had back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15. Still, the 24-year-old is in contention in his first start in a major championship.

Aberg would be the third golfer to win a major championship in his debut since the Masters was first played in 1934 -- Ben Curtis (2003 Open Championship) and Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA Championship) were the others.

"I think about [winning a major] all the time," Aberg said. "I'm okay thinking about it. Obviously, I'm a competitor and I want to win tournaments. I feel very fortunate to be in this position and to be here playing golf.

"Yes, I don't think you should shy away from it. I don't think you should try to push it away. I try to embrace it, and I try to be okay with all that comes with it, I guess."

Hojgaard, a three-time winner on the DP World Tour and a member of the European team that won the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, was 7 under and the solo leader after making three straight birdies on Nos. 8, 9 and 10. But then he made five straight bogeys -- he hit his ball into the water on Nos. 13 and 15.

"It's just tricky," Hojgaard said. "The course is playing tricky. I was probably in a period of my game where it was a little bit tricky and little bit out of position, but sometimes it's tough to turn it around."

DeChambeau, the former PGA Tour star who left for LIV Golf in June 2022, was 6 under after making a birdie on No. 10. But then he had back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12. On the par-5 15th, after taking relief, DeChambeau chunked a pitch shot from 45 yards into the water. He made double-bogey, followed by a bogey on the 16th.

DeChambeau regained momentum by making a hole-out birdie from 77 yards on the 18th.

"It's very difficult to chase, but I'm going to take what I can on this golf course where I can, and I've got to make some putts," DeChambeau said. "If I can make some putts tomorrow, I think I can have a good opportunity."