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Souhan: Masters delivers class, drama atop the leaderboards

AUGUSTA, GA. – Stroll the grounds of Augusta National, and you'll hear whispers that the green jackets who run the joint have a direct line to higher powers. That theory was strengthened on Saturday.

Men's professional golf in 2024 is riven by divisiveness and greed, yet the Masters enters the final round with three untainted, even likable, players atop the famed leaderboards.

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler collapsed, cauterized, then recovered, to reach 7-under par.

Collin Morikawa, winner of two majors, outplayed every contender, becoming the only player to shoot under par for a third consecutive round to reach 6-under.

Max Homa, who journals about his aspirations and acted like a Tiger Woods fanboy on Friday, positioned himself to win his first major by finishing with seven straight pars to stay 5-under.

The top four players on the leaderboard — including Ludvig Aberg at 4-under — include zero from LIV, zero egomaniacs, and zero mad scientists who 3D print their own irons.

The green jackets couldn't have asked for a better threesome … or maybe they did put in a request.

"I've never seen the golf course like this," Morikawa said.

"Things can happen pretty fast out there," Scheffler said.

Scheffler compared one hole to "putting toward a small volcano," after one of the most explosive even-par rounds imaginable.

Scheffler started at 7-under and in the lead. He finished at 7-under and in the lead. Beneath that round were wildly paddling duck's feet.

He was still at 7-under when he hit his approach to the 10th over the green, leading to a double bogey. He had gone 282 holes without making bogey or worse on consecutive holes, but on the 11th, he broke that streak with a bogey.

He parred the 12th to settle himself, then eagled the 13th and threw three uncharacteristic fist pumps. He birdied the 15th, meaning he had played the par-5s on the back nine in seven shots.

His ride wasn't over — he bogeyed 17 when his putt violently lipped out, then birdied the 18th.

Before Scheffler became the world No. 1, Morikawa was similarly noted for his classy competitiveness. He won majors in 2020 and '21 and could win a third of the four Grand Slam events on Sunday, which would be a stunning achievement for a player not known for driving distance or putting supremacy.

Masters leaderboard

Morikawa, Scheffler and Homa are excellent iron players, often the most-coveted skill at Augusta National.

He wasn't happy with his game early in the week, so he spent extra time on the range and changed putters during the tournament, chasing what he called "the right feels."

"Just trying to create that artwork out there," Morikawa said, offering a phrase that should end up on T-shirts if he wins.

Homa, searching for his first major title, is as easy to pull for as Scheffler and Morikawa. He finished tied for 10th in his last major, the 2023 British Open, and has become an expert at dealing with extraneous attention.

Friday, he played alongside Tiger Woods as Woods set a record with a 24th consecutive made cut at the major. Homa could have been considered a sideshow again on Saturday because he was playing alongside Bryson DeChambeau, who prints his own irons and likes to think of himself as Stephen Hawking in soft spikes.

Homa shot a 73 but remained within striking distance of Scheffler.

"Yeah, I came here with the gratitude and appreciation that I get to do it," he said. "I'm happy I get to do it tomorrow. … I let myself dream about what could go right. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. I didn't know what was going to happen today."

Golf is unpredictable enough without changing winds and Autobahn greens, as DeChambeau proved on the 18th.

Desperate to save his round after losing four strokes in six holes, he sank a wedge from about 80 yards on the 18th to get to fifth place.

"I just figured it was easier than putting," he said. "Just joking."

Or was he?