Scheffler rides luck to grab Masters third-round lead

World No.1 Scottie Scheffler has borrowed a dubious move from his 2022 playbook to remain on track to claim a second Masters green jacket in three years.

Scheffler parlayed a three-way share of the lead into a one-stroke buffer over fellow American Collin Morikawa after a wildly fluctuating third round at Augusta National on Saturday.

With four birdies and an eagle correcting three bogeys and a double, Scheffler eked out a dramatic one-under-par 71 to move to seven under entering Sunday's climax to golf's first major of the year.

He will start a hot favourite to complete the job and add the Masters jacket to his Players Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational victories from his blazing hot start to 2024. 

But fans aren't happy with the American's latest opportunistic drop on the third hole, which evoked memories of his similar play two years ago when he broke Australian superstar Cameron Smith's heart in the final round.

After again dragging his tee shot on the short par-4 deep into the trees, Scheffler sought a ruling and quickly had two officials in the Georgian pines with him.

Claiming the immovable leaderboard was obstructing his line to the green, after much consultation the tournament favourite was granted a free drop of within two club lengths.

He used every inch, then was able to place his ball after it twice rolled outside the allowable distance from his attempted drops.

Scheffler proceeded to chip freely on to the green and drain a 34-foot putt for birdie as he charged to seven under and the outright lead of the tournament.

Despite riding a roller-coaster for the ensuing four hours, Scheffler finished his round alone atop the leaderboard.

Scottie Scheffler waves to the crowd.
Scheffler waves after draining a controversial birdie on the third hole at Augusta National.

But fans quickly took to social media to condemn his conduct and "dodgy drop".

The world No.1 won't care as he chases down a second career major and some tangible rewards for his incredible dominance of world golf.

"I do have high expectations for myself," Scheffler said, knowing he's in pole position considering the "ridiculously fast and firm" conditions are making it perilously risky for his challengers to attack the course in pursuit.

"It's very challenging out there. But it's a major championship. I don't think Augusta wants their golf course to be very easy."

Scheffler will play the final round with Morikawa, who surged to six under with a fine 69.

"The last time I was pretty close was probably the US Open in '22 at Brookline. As a person and as a golfer, you don't know how you're going to react in those situations," the former British Open and PGA Championship winner said of his prospects of snaring a third major.

"Thankfully I've already been able to win two, so I can go back on those experiences and take that experience into tomorrow."

Fellow American Max Homa (73) slipped from an overnight share of the lead with Scheffler to third at five under, two strokes back.

Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg (70) is outright fourth at four under, with LIV Golf flagbearer Bryson DeChambeau (75) solo fifth four strokes adrift after a spectacular hole-out birdie from the fairway at the last after an errant tee shot into the trees.

Cam Davis (73) is the leading Australian, five shots behind Scheffler, sharing sixth at two under with American Xander Schauffele (70) and rising Dane Nicolai Hojgaard (74).

Superstar countryman Cameron Smith (72) is five shots back in a four-way tie for ninth.   

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