© Reuters. Golf – The Masters – Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia, U.S. – April 9, 2022 Scottie Scheffler of the U.S. watches his drive on the 17th tee during the third round REUTERS/Mike Blake
By Steve Keating
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – World number one Scottie Scheffler takes the limelight and a three-stroke lead in Sunday’s Masters final as Tiger Woods continues his comeback away from the standings.
The first major tournament of the year is set for a showdown between the two hottest golfers on the planet in Scheffler, winner of three of his last five PGA Tour starts, and Australian Cameron Smith, winner of the fifth unofficial golf tournament, the players’ championship in March.
Scheffler was close to running away with the title when he took a six-stroke lead in the third round on Saturday, but faltered to the finish with three bogeys to see his advantage halved to put in place what could be an Augusta National thriller.
The final pair of Scheffler and Smith, runners-up to Dustin Johnson at the 2020 Masters, is scheduled for 240 a.m. ET (6:40 p.m. GMT).
If someone else is expecting to join the fray, they will have to mount an early charge.
South Korean Im Sung-jae will start five times with playing partner Irishman Shane Lowry, the 2019 British Open champion seven times.
South African Charl Schwartzel, 2011 Masters champion, is also seven behind with partner Justin Thomas eight behind.
Until Sunday, the Masters spotlight had rarely strayed from Woods, who is playing his first event since a car crash 14 months ago nearly cost him his right leg,
The 46-year-old confirmed on Tuesday that he will be playing the Masters and that he believes he can win a record-tying sixth Green Jacket.
The comeback of the 15-time major winner captivated the golfing world as he remained in contention for the first two rounds, but any hope of victory ended on Saturday with a score of six out of 78, the worst score in Woods at Augusta National.
He and playing partner Jon Rahm were early starters Sunday at 10:50 a.m. ET (2:50 p.m. GMT) nearly four hours ahead of Scheffler and Smith.
But Woods is assured of a roaring ovation from the adoring gallery for a brave effort when he leaves the 18th green.