After a messy back nine, DeChambeau’s final swing keeps him in the mix at the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Bryson DeChambeau was rubbing his face in the middle of the 18th fairway, his head shaking slowly, as if he couldn’t quite believe how quickly his shot at a green jacket had apparently slipped away Saturday on the back nine at Augusta National.

Then, with his final swing in the fading sunlight of the third round, it suddenly seemed possible again.

A momentous meltdown sent DeChambeau tumbling down the Masters leaderboard, but he holed out from 77 yards for birdie on the closing hole to finish with a 3-over 75 that left him four strokes behind Scottie Scheffler heading to the final round.

Not a great position, to be sure, certainly not as good as it was after an opening 65 gave DeChambeau the outright lead, or the three-way tie for the top spot he found himself in with a 73 in brutal conditions Friday.

Especially because the guy in front is Scheffler, the world’s top-ranked player and just two years removed from winning the Masters — with three more players, including two-time major champ Collin Morikawa, between DeChambeau and the lead.

“It’s very difficult to chase, but I’m going to take what I can on this golf course where I can, and I’ve got to make some putts,” DeChambeau said. “If I can make some putts tomorrow, I think I can have a good opportunity.”

At least he will carry some positive thoughts to Sunday, rather the baggage of all that went wrong on Moving Day.

“I’m excited,” he insisted.

DeChambeau, the guy with the Popeye arms and Frankenstein approach to golf analytics, learned again that Augusta National is far more than who can hit it the farthest. It requires a deft touch and a willingness to back off every now and then.

That was never more apparent than at No, 15, one of the par-5s DeChambeau is always so eager to overpower.

After his 320-yard tee shot wound up behind a patch of trees far down the left side of the fairway, he made the questionable decision not to lay up in front of the pond. The result was a wild hook that clipped a tree and wound up in the adjoining 17th fairway.

He still a path to the right green after taking relief, only to look like a duffer down at the local muni when he chunked a wedge into the water. When he finally got the ball in the cup, it was a double-bogey 7.

A sloppy, three-putt bogey at the par-3 16th sent him tumbling even farther down the leaderboard, part of a disturbing trend that plagued him throughout the round as he struggled to judge the speed of Augusta’s treacherous greens.

He three-putted the 11th for a bogey and used the putter three more times from just off the back of the green for another bogey at the par-3 12th. And, yep, he three-putted again from 32 feet at the par-5 13th after reaching the green in two, settling for a par that should’ve been a birdie.

“I’m going to look back on this one and try to figure out how to putt well, putt better on these greens and control the speed a little bit more,” DeChambeau said. “I’ve got to figure out, when the greens get this firm, this crisp, how to control the speed just a little bit better.”

When he teed off into the trees right of the fairway at No. 18, it looked like the meltdown was complete.

DeChambeau seemed to sense it himself, judging by the disconsolate look on his face after he punched out into the fairway and found himself confronted with another likely bogey. Or worse.

Suddenly, the mood changed.

One swing put him back in the game.

“At the 18th hole, I just figured it was easier (to hole out) than putting,” DeChambeau said. ”Joking, obviously.”

Hey, at least he could smile.

After making a mess of nearly the entire back nine, DeChambeau still has a chance.

“You just have to stay positive no matter what,” he said. “I had a great break on 18. I’ll take that any day of the week.”


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