Brandt Snedeker of the US and Angel Cabrera of Argentina shared the lead at seven-under 209 after the third round of the Masters on Saturday.
Snedeker opened on four-under, two back from 36-hole leader Jason Day of Australia, and he parred the first 12 holes, before advancing with three birdies in four holes to get to seven-under.
Cabrera, the 2009 Masters winner, also picked up three shots on the day, making a birdie at the last to finish, like Snedeker, with a three-under 69.
Day, who led the field by one shot overnight, looked set to join Snedeker and Cabrera in a three-way tie for the lead, but he missed short putts at the last two holes to slip back to five-under.
That was one back of countryman Adam Scott (69), who was alone in third at six-under.
A third Australian, Marc Leishman, was level with Day at five-under after a 72, with Matt Kuchar (69) alone on four-under and South African Tim Clark on three-under after a 67, the best round of the day.
Level with Clark was Tiger Woods, who was hit with a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop before the round started, but then clawed his way back into contention at three-under with a round of 70.
The 32-year-old Snedeker, who was the form player on the PGA Tour at the start of the year, before picking up a rib cage injury, said that he would call on all the experience he gained while sharing third with Trevor Immelman at the 2008 Masters.
“I had no clue what I was doing in 2008. I had no game plan, no idea of when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, how to play this golf course the way you’re supposed to play it,” Snedeker said. “I have a completely clear focus of what I need to do tomorrow, clear set of goals that I need to hit. If I do that, I have a chance to win this golf tournament. I’m not here to get a good finish. I’m not here to finish top five. I’m here to win and that’s all I’m going to be focused on tomorrow.”
The 43-year-old Cabrera, who also won the 2007 US Open, but who has had a miserable season to date in the US, said that he had learned how to best play Augusta National over the course of his 13 previous campaigns.
“I think it’s important that you know where to miss. That’s very important, to know where to miss,” Cabrera said. “In 2009, I was nervous, anxious, but now I’m very comfortable. I know what I’ve got to do tomorrow to be able to get the win.”
Woods, whose faulty drop at the 15th hole on Friday brought the early morning two-stroke sanction and sparked calls from some former players for him to be disqualified, opened with a birdie, but fell away to level-par through 11 holes.
He then picked up shots at 12, 13 and 15 to edge himself back into contention.
History is against him, though, as he has never won a major when not leading, or sharing the lead, going into the final round.
“You know, the day started off obviously different, but I’m right there in the ballgame. As of right now, I’m four back with a great shot to win this championship,” Woods said.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, the winner of the previous major at the PGA Championship in August last year, shot himself out of the tournament with a 79 that included a triple-bogey at the 11th and a double-bogey at the 15th to stand at five-over.
“It’s very disappointing. I feel like I was playing well and feel like I have been playing well coming in here, and it’s just a frustrating day here,” said McIlroy, who has been struggling since the start of the year when he changed his golfing equipment.
The English challenge stuttered as Lee Westwood had a 73 to slip to two-under, Justin Rose carded a 75 for level-par and Luke Donald managed only a 75 to sink to two-over.
Phil Mickelson’s hopes were shattered as the three-time former winner slipped out to eight-over with a 77, while defending champion Bubba Watson, out first alone, came in with a 70 to get to two-over.
Chinese 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, the youngest player in Masters history, carded a 77 and at nine-over was third from bottom of the 61 players who made the cut.