US Masters 2022: Can anyone catch Scottie Scheffler in the final round at Augusta?

Scottie Scheffler still has control of the 86th Masters but some wobbles down the stretch suggest the fight for the Green Jacket may not be over yet.

When Scottie Scheffler built a six-shot lead during round three of The Masters on Saturday, it looked as if he could virtually put the tournament to bed.

The laid-back Texan seemed to be in total control and, as others made mistakes in the cold, tough, windy conditions, an eight or nine-shot advantage didn't appear out of the question.

But trying to win a first Masters and first Major should never be underestimated.

And after a strong finish from Cameron Smith and a string of bogeys from Scheffler, the gap at the top was halved to just three by close of play.

Scheffler is still in the driving seat but Sunday could still provide some dramatic swings.

Here we look at the contenders for victory on Sunday.

Scottie Scheffler -9 (69-67-71)

The star of the show so far but some rather agricultural swings and bogeys at 12, 14, 15 and 18 must be a concern.

However, during that stretch he birdied 13 and 17 (after a brilliant approach) and did incredibly well to limit the damage at the last to a bogey after a wild drive left.

Scheffler's three recent PGA Tour wins that took him to World No.1 will boost his comfort levels but trying to seal the deal on a Masters Sunday is a completely different ball game.

He's 0-for-2 on the PGA Tour when leading after 54 holes but, of course, they both came before he had a first win.

Scheffler's stats

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee - 4th

Strokes Gained: Approach - 7th

Strokes Gained: Around The Green - 5th

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green - 1st

Strokes Gained: Putting - 5th

Quotes: "I was playing some good golf, and outside of a couple holes on the back nine, I could have had a really great round, but I still had a really good round today.

"Anything in the red numbers today was going to be solid, and I was fortunate to do so.

"Should be a great fight tomorrow. Obviously Cam is a tremendous player, and he's got a fantastic short game, and he's coming off a huge win at The Players. Both of us are in good form, so I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge of playing with him tomorrow.

"I think for me, I've always done a really good job of focusing hard when I'm in contention."

Cameron Smith -6 (68-74-68)

Cameron Smith in a bunker at Augusta

Scheffler's lead was looking worrying for Smith early in round three after the Aussie failed to make any ground over the first five holes.

But he played the next 13 in 4-under to hand in a 68 and is right back in it.

He had eight birdies in round one and six more in round three and although Scheffler has better overall SG: Putting stats so far (ranked 5th to Smith's 16th), Smith's putter is heating up (2nd for SG: Putting on Saturday).

Smith was two back after 54 holes when he won The Players Championship last month and three adrift going into Sunday before landing the 2020 Sony Open so he has a good record when chasing.

Smith's stats

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee - 42nd

Strokes Gained: Approach - 1st

Strokes Gained: Around The Green - 12th

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green - 2nd

Strokes Gained: Putting - 16th

Quotes: "It was really tough out there today. I think I did a good job of just staying within myself, staying patient with the course.

"Yeah, just hitting lots of quality iron shots. Today the putts went in as well.

"Typically here on Sunday, especially the back nine, you can use plenty of greens to your advantage and have plenty of birdie opportunities.

"Again, just stay aggressive into the greens and just keep hitting quality shots."

Sungjae Im -4 (67-74-71)

Im, like Smith, was tied second in the 2020 Masters so this isn't new ground.

On that occasion, Im closed with a three-under 69 so he can tap into that positive experience.

The Korean had some early troubles but played the final 11 holes in 5-under to become one of just nine players to break par in round three.

Im's stats

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee - 17th

Strokes Gained: Approach - 25th

Strokes Gained: Around The Green - 13th

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green - 16th

Strokes Gained: Putting - 2nd

Quotes: "I still have a chance.

"I want to keep to my own play and focus on every single shot. That will be my strategy. If I need to be aggressive, I will go for it and if I need to go safe, I will go safe. I will choose my strategy depending on the situation. If it works out, I could have a good result.

"Winning the Masters would be great, but the pressure and an aggressive mindset could ruin my game. I will try to stay calm and focus.

"I'll try to not look at other scores and keep to my own game until the 18th hole."

The chasing pack

Everyone bar Smith and Im is seven or more shots back.

The last Major winner to overturn such a deficit was Paul Lawrie at the 1999 Open Championship, the Scot starting the day 10 behind.

Right now, Shane Lowry and Charl Schwartzel are seven behind, with Justin Thomas and Corey Conners eight adrift.

Danny Willett, the 2016 winner, is nine off the pace while those 10 back and hoping to 'do a Lawrie' include Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa.

But, realistically, with Scheffler and Smith the two hottest players in golf, it looks massively unlikely that both crack with a positive weather forecast suggesting scoring will be easier.

On the historical stats, the last time a player came from more than four behind on the final day to win the Green Jacket was when Sir Nick Faldo famously pulled a six-shot deficit back against Greg Norman in 1996.

That gives a scintilla of hope to Im, who is five behind the lead.

Conclusion

Starting with Faldo's win, 22 of the last 26 Masters winners started the final round in first or second place.

That suggests this is a shootout between Scheffler and Smith.

Scheffler certainly showed signs of creaking in round three but he still has to be the man to beat given that three-shot lead.

For those who think otherwise, Smith is around 11/4 to come through and become just the second ever Aussie winner.

READ MORE: Scottie Scheffler still leads, Cameron Smith prowls, Tiger Woods limps home

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