Garcia, Rose share Masters lead

Rory Mc Ilroy was proud of his battling display on day one at Augusta

Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia are just two of a glut of superstars who have set the stage for an epic final two rounds at the Masters.

So far in this 81st Masters, the breaks have been nearly exclusively good for Garcia, who fired a third-round, 2-under 70 - nearly five shots better than his third-round average in 13 previous Saturdays at Augusta - to maintain his share of the lead.

The run left Rose tied with Charley Hoffman at 6-under par. "Everybody knows with this back nine anything can happen".

This is the fifth and final year of Els' exemption from winning his fourth major at the 2012 British Open.

It appeared for a short time that Garcia's charge had gone off track, when his score of bogey at the par-four 10th was changed to a triple-bogey on the leaderboard. He's two shots out of the lead held jointly by Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. "And I m very optimistic I m going to make a good run". He will play in the final group Sunday with Garcia, who began the day in a four-way tie for first and stayed in contention for his first major championship with a 2-under 70. Missing numerous birdie chances on the front nine, the Spaniard shot four birdies and two bogeys to maintain his spot at the top of the leaderboard.

Rose and Garcia are both a 6-under through 54 holes. Rose has one major title to his name, that being the 2013 U.S. Open. And when he surveyed the landscape, he's not sure any of that matters. Spieth crept back near the top of the leader board after a dismal 75 on Thursday. "You're going to have to go out and play a good round of golf, and I think there are going to be four or five guys pretty much with the same mindset".

Hoffman dropped a shot on the 14th then double-bogeyed the par-four 17th and to finish at 4-under.

"I really know the course very well", Couples said. The American, who looks born on the slick greens and surrounds of Augusta, drained a superb 44-foot putt for birdie at the par-three sixth before recording a textbook birdie at the eighth. There was no better example than his approach to the 13th from the pine straw from about 200 yards away.

And at that moment, Spieth channeled the late Arnold Palmer, asking his caddie Michael Greller, "What would Arnie do, Mike?" He missed that for a three-putt bogey. Two holes later, he almost holed a wedge from the 15th fairway. Garcia has never seriously contended in the Masters, however, so while this is 19th appearance at Augusta, being part of a 36-hole lead is new territory. He went wire-to-wire to win in 2015.

"Waking up and you have a chance to win your favorite tournament that you've dreamt of winning and competing in since you were a kid, and to be able to have your fourth opportunity now ..."

Rickie Fowler finished a shot back, while Jordan Spieth carded a 68 to move level with fellow Americans Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore on four under.

So channeling "The King", Spieth stepped up and made a swing so ideal that he was anxious his ball was going to end up beyond the green, but it settled nicely to set up a two-putt birdie. He is now in prime position to win a green jacket.

Adam Scott, the 2013 victor, is alone in seventh at 3-under 213 after shooting a 69.

Nine players shot 69 or lower, with calmer air but with the greens continuing to get firm. Lee Westwood, a runner-up previous year and in search of his first major title at age 43, had 68 and is five back as is Masters rookie Thomas Pieters (75). "Still going to be behind, but in a position to kind of make some noise early". "I'm going to need something like that to have a chance tomorrow", McIlroy said.

Pieters has taken to the challenging layout at Augusta National like few first-timers in history.