Hoffman sneaks clear at Masters with Augusta offering stiff test


Charley Hoffman reclaimed sole possession of the Masters lead in the early stages of round three, as many of his rivals suffered mishaps on the front nine.

Still conditions - in contrast to the high winds that had made life tough throughout Thursday and Friday - looked likely to lead to lower scoring on 'moving day', but there were still plenty of pitfalls lying in wait on Augusta's famed undulating layout. 

Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy each made up early ground only to be hampered by double bogeys, while Rickie Fowler - one of four overnight leaders along with Hoffman, Thomas Pieters and Sergio Garcia - did well to rescue a bogey on the third after he had briefly moved clear at the summit.

As Fowler gave back his early gain, first-round pacesetter Hoffman birdied the second to reach five under. That put him one clear of Fowler, Pieters, Garcia and William McGirt, who was two under for the day through five.

Jon Rahm was two under, having followed birdies at two and three with a dropped shot at four, while Jordan Spieth was among several players four off the lead.

After starting steadily with five straight pars, Spieth got to one under for the day and tournament courtesy of a 44-foot birdie putt on the sixth. Spieth, who made a nine at 15 on Thursday, is seeking a second green jacket and has never finished outside the top two in three previous appearances at this event.

Mickelson looked primed to launch a Saturday charge when he birdied the first and second to reach two under, but a clumsy double bogey followed for the three-time champion at the third and he then dropped another shot at the par-three sixth.

It was a similar story for McIlroy on the front nine. The Northern Irishman moved into red figures with birdies on two and three, only to bogey five and rack up an ugly six on the seventh, sending him back to plus two for the tournament.