AUGUSTA, Ga. — Scottie Scheffler spent all day fending off the cold wind at the Masters, slipping on a vest over his layers of clothing after every shot on every hole. One more round, and his next wardrobe change might be a green jacket.
Scheffler looked oblivious to the harsh conditions Saturday, at one point stretching his lead to six shots. He then held on during a wild and windy ride along the back nine at Augusta National Golf Club, escaping with a bogey from the trees on the 18th hole for a 1-under-par 71 and a three-shot lead over Cameron Smith.
"I was playing some good golf, and outside of a couple holes on the back nine, I could have had a really great round," Scheffler said. "Anything in the red numbers today was going to be solid, and I was fortunate to do so."
Smith had the low round at 68 — he was the only player among the 52 who made the cut to break 70 — and gave himself another shot at winning the Masters in his first start since his victory in The Players Championship a month ago. The 28-year-old Australian was a runner-up to Dustin Johnson two years ago in the pandemic-delayed Masters played in November, and he tied for 10th last year.
South Korea's Sungjae Im (71), also a runner-up in 2020 and the leader after the opening round Thursday, was the only other player within five shots of Scheffler, who was at 9-under 207.
Tiger Woods wanted to find a way to get into red numbers and wound up with his worst score ever at the Masters, a 78 that will be remembered for his first four-putt at this course. He also had four three-putts and was 16 shots behind, tied for 41st.
"You'd think I'd have figured it out somewhere along the line, but it just didn't happen," said Woods, the five-time Masters champion whose worst finish in the event as a professional was a tie for 40th in 2012. He shared 41st place in 1995, when he was the low amateur.
On such a cold day — the wind chill was in the upper 40s most of the round — perhaps this was a warmup for what Scheffler can expect Sunday at Augusta National, typically the greatest theater of the majors, especially for those seeking their first major. That's the case for Scheffler and his closest competition.
The last player who failed to hold a lead of three shots or more going into the final round was 21-year-old Rory McIlroy in 2011. Scheffler looked as though he might turn this into a runaway when he made his fourth birdie of the round on the par-5 eighth and expanded his lead to six shots.
But then a shot from the front bunker on the par-3 12th went over the green. He bounced back with a birdie only to come up well short of the monstrous mound guarding the back right pin on the 14th for bogey, and wound up three-putting the par-5 15th for another bogey.
Even after his best shot of the round, an approach to four feet for birdie on the 17th, he ran into big problems on the 18th. He yanked his tee shot into a canopy of trees and twisted branches, leaving him no choice but to take a penalty drop on the pine straw. Bold as ever, he smashed his approach from 240 yards onto the green and just over the back, leaving him two putts to keep his distance.
"You hate bogeying the last hole, but the way I bogeyed it, it for sure felt like a par," Scheffler said. "Definitely a good finish to the day. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Sunday will be the first time a final pairing at a major features players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking since the 2015 PGA Championship with Jason Day and Jordan Spieth. Scheffler and Smith might be the two hottest players in golf, too.
Scheffler has won three of his past five tournaments, all against some of the strongest fields of the year, a run that has elevated the 25-year-old from Dallas to No. 1. Smith, currently ranked sixth, began the year by taking down the former No. 1 player, Jon Rahm, with a record score to par at the Tournament of Champions. His latest feat was to win the next best thing to a major, The Players Championship, last month.
"It just means I can get it done, I guess, when I'm up against the best guys in the world. It's a good feeling to have. It's earned. It's not given to you," Smith said. "So I'm going to have to go out there tomorrow and play really good golf again, probably similar to today. Hopefully everything just falls into place."
Woods finished as Scheffler was still comfortably ahead, and the 15-time major winner feels as though he has seen this before. Players hit peak form all the time, and it's especially sweet when that run is in the spring with the Masters on the calendar.
Woods won back-to-back events ahead of his Masters victory in 2001. Jordan Spieth won and had a pair of runner-up finishes when he won his green jacket in 2015. Fred Couples won twice and was runner-up twice ahead of his 1992 victory at Augusta.
"We all wish we had that two-, three-month window when we get hot, and hopefully majors fall somewhere along in that window. We take care of it in those windows," Woods said. "Scottie seems to be in that window right now."
Charl Schwartzel, who won the Masters in 2011, was trying to keep stride with Smith until he three-putted from about eight feet for a bogey on the 16th and dropped another shot on the 17th, slipping to a 73. He was at 2-under 214 and tied for fourth with Ireland's Shane Lowry (73), the 2019 British Open champion.
Justin Thomas (72) and Corey Conners (73) were the only other players under par.
The Masters winner gets a gold medal, a green jacket, a lifetime invitation back to Augusta National and a sterling silver trophy. And this year, more money than anyone has ever won at the Masters.
Augusta National announced Saturday that the winner of this year's tournament gets $2.7 million out of a total purse of $15 million. Both are tournament records. It's about a 30% increase over last year, when Hideki Matsuyama got $2.07 million from a purse of $11.5 million.
In terms of total dollars, it's by far the biggest one-year increase in Masters history. Percentage-wise, the tournament provided a bigger jump from 1982 to 1983, when the purse and winner's share both increased about 40%. The winner in 1982 got $64,000; the winner in 1983 got $90,000.
The Masters purse and first-place check now match what is offered at the first two stops of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs — the St. Jude Championship and the BMW Championship.