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Hideki Matsuyama could make history for Japan in Masters

Hideki Matsuyama leads third round of 2021 Masters
Japan's Hideki Matsuyama tees off on the 2nd hole Saturday during the 3rd round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

After 75-minute rain delay, Matsuyama scorches back 9 for bogey-free 65 to take 4-stroke lead into final round at Augusta National

Hideki Matsuyama surged into the lead Saturday in the third round of the Masters, shooting a bogey-free 7-under 65 at Augusta National Golf Club.

After a 75-minute rain delay, Matsuyama played his final eight holes in 6 under to cap a back-nine 30 and seize the momentum (scores).

If Matsuyama can convert the 54-hole lead into victory, he would be the first Japanese male golfer to win a major championship. Matsuyama, 29, has won five times on the PGA Tour, but he has gone winless since 2017.

In nine previous appearances at Augusta National, dating to a T-27 and the low-amateur honor in 2011, Matsuyama owns two top-10 results.

"This will be a new experience for me, leading in the final round of a major championship," Matsuyama said through an interpreter.

It also will be a new experience for his home country, which was able to celebrate only seven days earlier a victory by Tsubasa Kajitani in the Augusta National Women's Amateur. Two Japanese female professionals have won major championships: Hinako Shibuno, at the 2019 Women's British Open, and Chako Higuchi, at the 1977 LPGA Championship.

American Xander Schauffele, who was paired with Matsuyama, shot 4-under 68 to move into a four-way tie for second, four strokes back at 7-under 209.

Justin Rose, the 36-hole leader, had expanded his advantage to three strokes early in the afternoon with a birdie-birdie start. Rose was unable to maintain the early momentum and shot 72 to join Schauffele, rookie Will Zalatoris (71) and Australian Marc Leishman (70) in second place.

Volunteer sorts numbers for scoreboard at 2021 Masters
A volunteer sorts through numbers for the leaderboard during Round 3 of the Masters on Saturday at Augusta National Golf Club.

Rose is seeking to become only the third Englishman to win the green jacket, after Danny Willett (2016) and three-time winner Nick Faldo (1989, 1990, 1996).

Rose, 40, a 10-time winner on the PGA Tour, won the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion. He has gone winless since Jan. 27, 2019, when he won the Farmers Insurance Open. In 15 Masters appearances, Rose has posted five top-10 results, notably runners-up in 2015 and 2017.

Canadian Corey Conners was making a big move up the leaderboard on the strength of a hole-in-one.

After having started the day five strokes behind Rose, Conners played the front nine in 4 under, sparked by an ace with a 8-iron at the downhill 180-yard par-3 sixth hole, and briefly pulled into a share of second place.

Conners birdied Nos. 2, 3 and 7, which sandwiched a bogey at the par-4 fifth and then the one-swing theatrics at the sixth. Conners shot 68 for a 6-under 210 total to stand solo sixth, five strokes behind Matsuyama.

Only one Canadian has won the Masters: Mike Weir, in 2003.

Conners, 29, has won once on the PGA Tour, at the 2019 Valero Texas Open. He ranks No. 43 in the world after having posted two top-10 results on the recent Florida Swing: third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and seventh at the Players Championship.

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