Gary Player believes Tiger Woods will never win another major or be "a real force again" in golf.

Fifteen-time major winner Woods is recovering at his Florida home after the car crash in Los Angeles that saw him suffer severe leg injuries.

The 45-year-old hopes to return to competition, but the day that happens is a long way off.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff said Woods was driving at over 80 miles per hour in a 45mph zone on February 23 when he lost control of his Genesis SUV and came off the road, hitting a tree. He was said on the day of the crash to have been fortunate to survive the impact.

Player, who won nine majors in his own storied career, says it is hard to see Woods reviving the all-conquering game that brought him so much glory.

However, he expects the American superstar, who has battled back problems over the last seven years, to play again.

"Oh yes, my answer is emphatically yes," Player told Stats Perform News. "Yes, I do believe he will come back, and I do believe he will play in tournaments, but I don't believe he will win another major.

"He is getting on in age. Yes, I won the Masters at 42, [Jack] Nicklaus won it at 46, but he has been playing with a bad back. He has had four or five operations on his back - it's fused. He's had knee problems, he has had so many problems and eventually they can wear you down."

Woods has also spoken in the past of a "sleep disorder", and South African all-time great Player pointed to that as another possible factor that makes it improbable the former world number one will rise to the top of the game once more.

"So I don't think he will ever come out and be a real force again, but I hope I'm wrong," Player said. "I pray I am wrong, but that is just my opinion.

"I am not being naive and I am not being arrogant in my opinion - according to doctors, some doctors say he won't, some doctors say he will - but the will of a man is more important than a doctor's opinion sometimes."

Player, 85, is one of only five players, along with Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen, to have won golf's modern career Grand Slam by triumphing at each of the Masters, Open Championship, US PGA Championship and U.S. Open.

He said he missed Woods "terribly" during the recent Masters week.

"I can only tell you at the Masters dinner, with 33 champions in the room, it was brought up and everybody said, 'hear, hear', how much we miss Tiger and we hope he'll be back soon," Player said.

"To the contrary, most people say he will never play again, I know in my heart... Tiger Woods is a special man. He will come back and play the tournament again."

Cameron Smith carded a nine-under-par 62 to set the early pace by one stroke after the first round of the RBC Heritage.

Australian golfer Smith turned in a bogey-free round at Harbour Town on Thursday for the lowest score of his PGA Tour career.

The 2020 Masters runner-up birdied three of the last four holes, just missing an eagle at the last when his approach shot missed the hole by inches. 

Smith finished with nine birdies in the opening round, tying his career record for most birdies in a single round on Tour.

"Everything just came together," Smith told reporters. "It was a great day on the green. I was hitting my irons really good. I had lots of good looks, and I just took advantage of them."

Smith's score matched the lowest opening round in tournament history, joining Davis Love III in 2002 and Peter Lonard three years later. 

The 27-year-old has two career PGA Tour titles, the most recent in January 2020 at the Sony Open in Hawaii. 

"I just feel really comfortable," Smith said. "Mentally I feel very free out there. I feel like I can hit the shot that I need to hit and going ahead and trying to execute it. I just feel like every shot I'm hitting, I'm putting 100 per cent into it, and on a day like today, it's really rewarding."

Two-time champion Stewart Cink started early and was the clubhouse leader with a 63 before Smith's torrid closing stretch left him second on the leaderboard. 

Cink's score on Thursday was the American veteran's best in 75 career rounds at Harbour Town. 

"A round like this doesn't show you there is more out there," Cink said. "A round like this shows you what you're doing is already dead on, and why change anything?"

Matt Wallace and Collin Morikawa are three shots back at six under, followed by Charles Howell III, Billy Horschel and Harold Varner III – who are a stroke further adrift.

Masters runner-up Will Zalatoris shot a three-under-par 68, while world number one Dustin Johnson ended the day eight shots off the pace.

Defending champion Webb Simpson opened his bid for back-to-back titles with a first-round 71, leaving him tied for 67th. 

Genzebe Dibaba believes it would be a more comfortable experience at the Tokyo Games if athletes are vaccinated against coronavirus and is confident organisers will do all they can to protect competitors at the Olympics.

Wednesday marks 100 days until the Games are due to begin in the Japanese capital, a year later than planned after the original dates in 2020 were scuppered by the pandemic.

The health crisis continues to cause issues for nations across the globe but the message from the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has thus far been that the show will go on.

While international fans are banned from attending, and social-distancing measures, track-and-trace systems and temperature checks will be enforced, a vaccination against COVID-19 will not be a pre-requisite to participate in Tokyo.

Middle and long-distance runner Dibaba, a silver medallist in the 1500 metres at Rio 2016 and the world record holder over that distance, thinks athletes should have a jab for the Games.

"Yes, I think it's safe and more comfortable to manage, to meet with the other athletes," Dibaba told Stats Perform News.

"[I think it's] better to take the vaccine."

As part of the solutions to try and prevent transmission of the virus at the Games, Tokyo 2020 and the IOC have come up with 'Playbooks' for athletes, officials and the media to follow – which includes having to complete an activity book outlining plans while in the city.

Regular testing will also be enforced, with athletes being checked every four days, and Dibaba acknowledged organisers are doing what they can to put on a safe Games.

"It's hard to feel safe because it's a virus and you can get it at any minute," she added.

"But since it's the Olympics, I know they will do everything they can to protect us."

Dibaba spoke about the difficulties athletes have faced in training for an Olympics facing so much uncertainty.

But the Ethiopian – a world champion in 2015 – is still focused on moving up a step on the podium in Tokyo, even if she feels a crack at breaking her own 1500m world record may have to wait a little while.

"For now I'm getting ready for the Olympics, not for the record," Dibaba said. 

"It's a race, since it's a record anyone can break it if they work hard. If they go for the record I will be there. 

"If not I'm just working for the Olympic Games, not for the record. After the Olympics, I promise you I will try one more time that I will go for the record."

Hideki Matsuyama's maiden major triumph has elevated golf to a new level, according to Gary Player.

Matsuyama entered the history books as he became the first Japanese man to prevail at a major after winning The Masters on Sunday.

The 29-year-old, with five PGA Tour titles under his belt prior to his Augusta triumph, held his nerve to win by one shot and claim the famed green jacket.

Matsuyama (2011) became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours, following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).

Having clocked up seven top-10 finishes across golf's four headline tournaments, Matsuyama catapulted himself into esteemed company with his Georgia glory and Player, a nine-time major winner, knows there is a huge gap between winners and also-rans. 

And he feels Matsuyama's success has taken the sport "up a notch".

"Now you see there are lots of ifs and ands, but finishing second, only your wife and your dog knows about it – that's if you've got a good dog," the South African, who donned the green jacket three times, told Stats Perform News.

"So now he comes along and he wins the Masters in great style and I said to him, 'I'm very happy that you won because you can be president or prime minister of Japan and I won't need a visa!'.

"No, his play was exemplary, he kept his cool, and what wins golf tournaments is not long driving as we are brainwashed about, it's the putter and the mind.

"I'm so happy he won because I want to see people win golf tournaments where golf is going to be the benefactor.

"More clubs will be sold around the world now and golf went up a notch. I always wanted to have the best world record as a global golfer, not just in America only, so for me to see an international player win, I'm always happy to see anybody win but it's going to do golf so much good. I can't tell you.

"If this wasn't during COVID you would have had people flying over from Japan the night before, the press people. He would have had 60 representatives of the media in Japan because they've been thirsting and hungry and starved for a major championship winner. And a golfing nation of that status has been deprived of that, and there they've got it at last. Thank goodness."

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama said he admirers countrymen and MLB stars Yu Darvish, Kenta Maeda and Shohei Ohtani after becoming the first Japanese man to win a major.

Matsuyama made history with his one-stroke victory ahead of Will Zalatoris in a tense finale at Augusta on Sunday.

A five-time PGA Tour winner before this success, Matsuyama withstood a wobble and the threat posed by Xander Schauffele (72) and Zalatoris (70) to complete a history-making performance in Georgia, where he carded a final-round 73 to claim the green jacket.

Matsuyama was asked about his golfing heroes after the memorable achievement, but the 29-year-old instead listed his baseball idols – Los Angeles Angels two-way sensation Ohtani, four-time All-Star and San Diego Padres ace Darvish and Minnesota Twins pitcher Maeda.

"You know, the people that I admired were a lot -- were mainly baseball players: Darvish, Ohtani, Maeda," Matsuyama told reporters.

"As far as golf, not so much. Hopefully now others will, like you said, be inspired for what happened here today and follow in my footsteps."

"It's been a struggle recently," added Matsuyama, who had last won on the PGA Tour in 2017. "This year, no Top 10s, haven't even contended. So I came to Augusta with little or no expectations. But as the week progressed, as I practiced, especially on Wednesday, I felt something again. I found something in my swing.

"And when that happens, the confidence returns. And so I started the tournament with a lot of confidence."

Matsuyama (2011) – who finished 10 under – became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours, following in the footsteps of Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).

With his final-round 73, Matsuyama became the eighth player (nine instances) to claim The Masters despite an over-par final round – Trevor Immelman was the last to do so in 2008.

It came after Matsuyama – four strokes clear at the start of the day – had extended his lead to five at the turn, before his title bid threatened to turn sour as Schauffele closed in and Zalatoris loomed.

After finding water at the par-five 15th hole, Matsuyama took the penalty and cleaned up for bogey as Schauffele continued to heap pressure on the Japanese hopeful, cutting the lead to two shots with his fourth consecutive birdie.

But Schauffele's pursuit of a maiden major collapsed when the American – seven back at the 12th tee before rallying – also found water before sending his next shot into the crowd.

Matsuyama had a routine par to move three shots clear with two to play, but he dropped another shot, his lead down to two ahead of Zalatoris as an ill-timed triple-bogey sent 2019 runner-up Schauffele down to equal third alongside Jordan Spieth – four shots behind.

That was the breathing space Matsuyama needed as Japan's new poster boy held his nerve, doing what he needed to do during the final two holes in front of an appreciative crowd on the 18th, where not even a bogey could wipe away the champion's smile.

"Xander had just made three birdies in a row at 12, 13 and 14. I hit the fairway at 15, hitting first, with Xander having the momentum," Matsuyama said as he discussed his approach on the 15th and 16th holes. "I felt I needed to birdie 15 because I knew Xander would definitely be birdieing or maybe even eagling.

"But it didn't happen. And so I stood on the 16th tee with a two-stroke lead, and unfortunately for Xander, he found the water with his tee shot and I played safe to the right of the green at 16."

"I can't say I'm the greatest. However, I'm the first to win a major, and if that's the bar, then I've set it," Matsuyama said when asked if he is the greatest male golfer out of Japan following his success.

Will Zalatoris was frustrated to have finished second at The Masters, but the Augusta debutant basked in his "dream" week at the iconic major.

Zalatoris did not look out of place in his rookie Masters appearance, the 24-year-old earning the runners-up cheque, just a stroke behind history-making champion Hideki Matsuyama on Sunday.

Tied for sixth at last year's U.S. Open, Zalatoris – who had no status when the 2020-21 PGA Tour started in September as the coronavirus pandemic meant there was no Qualifying Tournament for the developmental Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 – catapulted himself into Masters contention.

Attempting to become the first player since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 to win his Masters debut, Zalatoris carded a two-under-par 70 in the final round, which included five birdies and three bogeys.

Zalatoris, who now has six top-10 and 11 top-25 finishes in his 15 Tour starts this season, said: "Absolute dream. To be in a situation, I've been dreaming about it for 20 years.

"I thought I did a really good job this week of just enjoying the moment, but not letting it get to me. I think I kind of let everything soak in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then back to work on Thursday.

"So it was an absolute treat, and obviously to come up one short and be disappointed is motivating but obviously very exciting."

Zalatoris – the only player to shoot under par in all four rounds at this year's Masters – said: "I think the fact that I'm frustrated I finished second in my third major says something, and the fact that I didn't let any moment really get to me, was really exciting.

"And obviously my two majors as a pro, I finished sixth and runner-up. I know if I keep doing what I doing, I'm going to have a really good chance in the future."

"I've wanted to be on this stage for forever, for basically my entire life. So I think, if anything, it's like you finally get to this moment, and why shy away now? I've gotten here. So let's go do some damage. It was a fun week," Zalatoris continued.

"I can play with the best players in the world."

Xander Schauffele has no regrets after a rare triple-bogey ended his Masters hopes in another close call at a major tournament.

Schauffele – runner-up at the 2019 Masters and 2018 Open Championship, having also finished third at the U.S. Open almost two years ago – had to settle for a share of third position alongside Jordan Spieth on Sunday.

The former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year closed within two shots of eventual champion Hideki Matsuyama before losing his way on the 16th hole at Augusta, where he ended up finishing four strokes adrift.

A run of four consecutive birdies heaped pressure on Matsuyama, but Schauffele's pursuit of a maiden major collapsed when the American – seven back at the 12th tee – found water before sending his next shot into the crowd.

An ill-timed triple-bogey sent Schauffele down to equal third – it was his first triple-bogey in a major championship, a run of 1,042 holes.

"I hit a perfect eight iron. It was 184 yards. I can hit my eight iron 180 yards out here," Schauffele said when asked about the 16th tee. "I turned it right to left. The wind was into left to right. It got smoked and eaten up. You could kind of see it. The ball hovered there.

"So I was chasing. I was still two back. Hideki is a great left to right iron player. I figured, if I hit it close, he was going to hit it right on top. I was in full chase mode, so I have no regrets from that aspect."

Schauffele added: "I never gave up. It was pretty wild. Kind of a weird start. It almost took the edge off.  I knew the first through five, if you could be even par, it would be a really good score. I imagined to play five the way I did all week, which is five-over for the week or even worse.

"I fought hard. I felt like I made it exciting at the end, hit a really good shot on 16. I committed to it. I hit a perfect shot. We thought it was down left to right. It was not down left to right, and the rest is history."

After his latest close call, Schauffele said: "It's another lesson to put in the memory bank. 2019, I had a rookie hiccup moment of, oh, my goodness, I'm leading the Masters. This year I was chasing. I'm playing better than I was in 2019, and I made a mistake on shot selection and wind.

"If you look at my second shot after I dropped, I hit a nine iron that went downwind. I think the way that thing flew, it flattened out and flew 160 yards. Austin and I just kind of painfully laughed at each other and said, 'Well, I guess it switched again'. It is what it is. I think I just need to hit a different shot in there."

"It's hard to win out here," the 27-year-old said. "Especially at this tournament. I think I'll throw 16 in the memory bank. I think a lot of great shots into 16 are left to right. High cuts into that mound. I've been hitting a good high cut all week. I just didn't think of it at that time. I hit like a hard draw eight-iron, and it wasn't the shot.

"Moving forward, just kind of throw it in the memory bank. I'm going to keep collecting thoughts. Hopefully, I keep coming back here for years to come, and the goal is to win one day."

Hideki Matsuyama hopes his history-making Masters triumph will pave the way for more Japanese success among men.

Matsuyama made history as he became the first Japanese man to win a major tournament after claiming The Masters by one shot in a thrilling finale at Augusta on Sunday.

A five-time PGA Tour winner before this success, Matsuyama withstood a wobble and the threat posed by Xander Schauffele (72) and Will Zalatoris (70) to complete a memorable performance in Georgia, where he triumphed at 10 under par overall following a 73 to get his hands on the green jacket.

Matsuyama (2011) became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours, following in the footsteps of Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).

After replicating the major success of countrywomen Hinako Shibuno (2019 Women's British Open) and Chako Higuchi (1977 LPGA Championship) on the men's circuit, Matsuyama said: "Hopefully I'll be a pioneer in this and many other Japanese will follow.

"I'm glad to be able to open the floodgates hopefully, and many more will follow me."

Matsuyama – four strokes clear at the start of the day – had extended his lead to five at the turn, but his title bid threatened to turn sour as Schauffele closed in and Zalatoris loomed.

After finding water at the par-five 15th hole, Matsuyama took the penalty and cleaned up for bogey as Schauffele continued to heap pressure on the Japanese hopeful, cutting the lead to two shots with his fourth consecutive birdie.

But Schauffele's pursuit of a maiden major collapsed when the American – seven back at the 12th tee before rallying – also found water before sending his next shot into the crowd.

Matsuyama had a routine par to move three shots clear with two to play, but he dropped another shot, his lead down to two ahead of Zalatoris as an ill-timed triple-bogey sent 2019 runner-up Schauffele down to equal third alongside Spieth – four shots behind.

That was the breathing space Matsuyama needed as Japan's new poster boy held his nerve, doing what he needed to do during the final two holes in front of an appreciative crowd on the 18th, where not even a bogey could wipe away the champion's smile.

"My nerves really didn't start on the second nine," Matsuyama said. "It was right from the start today. Right to the very last putt."

With his final-round 73, Matsuyama became the eighth player (nine instances) to claim The Masters despite an over-par final round – Trevor Immelman was the last to do so in 2008.

Asked what moment he realised he was going to win The Masters, the 29-year-old added: "Hitting the fairway with my tee shot at 18."

Hideki Matsuyama's breakthrough Masters triumph will "impact the entire golf world", according to 15-time major champion Tiger Woods.

Matsuyama made history as he became the first Japanese man to win a major tournament after claiming The Masters by one shot in a thrilling finale at Augusta on Sunday.

A five-time PGA Tour winner before this success, Matsuyama withstood a wobble and the threat posed by Xander Schauffele (72) and Will Zalatoris (70) to complete a history-making performance in Georgia, where he triumphed at 10 under par overall following a 73 to get his hands on the green jacket.

Matsuyama (2011) became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours, following in the footsteps of Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).

Five-time Masters champion and American superstar Woods – who is recovering after a near-fatal single-car collision in February – congratulated the 29-year-old Matsuyama via social media.

"Making Japan proud Hideki. Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your country," Woods wrote on Twitter.

"This historic Masters win will impact the entire golf world."

Matsuyama – four strokes clear at the start of the day – had extended his lead to five at the turn, but his title bid threatened to turn sour as Schauffele closed in and Zalatoris loomed.

After finding water at the par-five 15th hole, Matsuyama took the penalty and cleaned up for bogey as Schauffele continued to heap pressure on the Japanese hopeful, cutting the lead to two shots with his fourth consecutive birdie.

But Schauffele's pursuit of a maiden major collapsed when the American – seven back at the 12th tee before rallying – also found water before sending his next shot into the crowd.

Matsuyama had a routine par to move three shots clear with two to play, but he dropped another shot, his lead down to two ahead of Zalatoris as an ill-timed triple-bogey sent 2019 runner-up Schauffele down to equal third alongside Spieth – four shots behind.

It was Schauffele's first triple-bogey in a major championship – a run of 1,042 holes.

That was the breathing space Matsuyama needed as Japan's new poster boy held his nerve, doing what he needed to do during the final two holes in front of an appreciative crowd on the 18th, where not even a bogey could wipe away the champion's smile.

Hideki Matsuyama made history as he became the first Japanese man to win a major tournament after claiming The Masters by one shot in a thrilling finale at Augusta.

Matsuyama was on the cusp of history heading into Sunday's final round, the 29-year-old carrying a four-stroke lead as he looked to replicate the major success of countrywomen Hinako Shibuno (2019 Women's British Open) and Chako Higuchi (1977 LPGA Championship) on the men's circuit.

A five-time PGA Tour winner before this success, Matsuyama withstood a wobble and the threat posed by Xander Schauffele (72) to complete a history-making performance in Georgia, where he triumphed at 10 under par overall following a 73 to get his hands on the green jacket.

Will Zalatoris (70) earned outright second position, two strokes ahead of former world number one and 2015 Masters winner Jordan Spieth (70) and 2019 runner-up Schauffele.

Matsuyama – four strokes clear at the start of the day – had extended his lead to five at the turn, but his title bid threatened to turn sour as Schauffele closed in and Zalatoris loomed.

After finding water at the par-five 15th hole, Matsuyama took the penalty and cleaned up for bogey as Schauffele continued to heap pressure on the Japanese hopeful, cutting the lead to two shots with his fourth consecutive birdie.

But Schauffele's pursuit of a maiden major collapsed when the American – seven back at the 12th tee before rallying – also found water before sending his next shot into the crowd.

Matsuyama had a routine par to move three shots clear with two to play, but he dropped another shot, his lead down to two ahead of Zalatoris as an ill-timed triple-bogey sent 2019 runner-up Schauffele down to equal third alongside Spieth – four shots behind.

It was Schauffele's first triple-bogey in a major championship – a run of 1,042 holes.

That was the breathing space Matsuyama needed as Japan's new poster boy held his nerve, doing what he needed to do during the final two holes in front of an appreciative crowd on the 18th, where not even a bogey could wipe away the champion's smile.

Matsuyama (2011) became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours, following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).

Elsewhere, Jon Rahm (66) and Marc Leishman (73) shared fifth position at six under, while one-time major champion Justin Rose had to settle for seventh – five shots off the pace – following his final-round 74 as 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed (69) surged into a tie for eighth.

Hideki Matsuyama held a five-shot lead as he hit the turn in the final round of The Masters.

Matsuyama went into the last 18 holes four strokes ahead and in the box set to claim the first major title of his career.

Amid windy conditions at Augusta National, the Japanese made a shaky start on Sunday, two-putting for bogey on the first as he paid the price for a wayward tee shot.

He appeared to be in trouble again on the next after finding the bunker with his approach, but he sent an exquisite shot out of the sand to four feet and made no mistake with the putt to birdie the par-five second.

Matsuyama performed similar recovery work on the eighth. He sent his approach off the edge of the green but an excellent third shot left him with just three feet for another gain.

That restored his overnight advantage and a wondrous approach on the ninth saw that lead extended, with Will Zalatoris, who had threatened to erase Matsuyama's margin with a birdie-birdie start, struggling to keep pace.

Zalatoris, making his first competitive start at The Masters, bogeyed the eighth and the 10th but, at eight under, still stood as Matsuyama's closest challenger. 

Justin Rose, Marc Leishman and Xander Schauffele had been four adrift after Saturday's play but all fell further back on Sunday.

Rose and Leishman were each five under through nine, with Schauffele within seven shots of Matsuyama on six under.

Justin Rose remains hopeful of overhauling Hideki Matsuyama for his first green jacket after struggling in the penultimate round of The Masters.

Rose had set the pace heading into the third round at Augusta, but the one-time major champion fell four strokes adrift of red-hot challenger Matsuyama on Saturday.

Consecutive birdies to begin the round appeared to have Rose on track to maintain his advantage but back-to-back bogeys on the fourth and fifth holes saw the two-time Masters runner-up come unstuck.

One shot ahead during the weather delay, Rose fell away when play resumed – the Englishman signing for a second successive 72 in Georgia.

"I didn't play well enough today, simple as that really," said Rose as he eyes his maiden Masters crown.

"I think all in all, to have a shot tomorrow, I'm delighted. I have that freedom to take a run at it, and of course I'd love to kind of stay with it just a little bit better.

"I've been playing with the lead the whole week, and obviously there's been an hour of golf where Hideki has moved out there in front.

"You know, all the guys chasing at seven under are all capable of that little run that Hideki has had, so it's all up for grabs tomorrow."

Rose added: "I was pretty happy just to be able to walk into the clubhouse before I dropped another shot."

Rose heads into Sunday's final round level at seven under alongside 2019 runner-up Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and Will Zalatoris.

Schauffele improved 10 positions thanks to a third-round 68, which included an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys.

"It's moving day. It's Saturday," Schauffele said of playing alongside Japan's Matsuyama, who gained six shots in seven holes to seize control. "You want to play with someone who's going to shoot seven-under. You hope that it's yourself, and if not, you chase.

"You'd rather play with someone that's shooting 65 than shooting 74. It was nice to chase after him. He's an incredible iron player. This is a great course for him. I think he has a great record out here at Augusta National, and obviously he showed it this afternoon."

Leishman (70) – who finished tied for fourth in 2013 – enjoyed a strong finish, with two birdies from his final bogey-free six holes leaving him in a mix to become just the second Australian to win a green jacket after Adam Scott (2013).

"Obviously if Hideki plays well, he can control his own destiny," Leishman said. "But a lot can happen around here. I've seen it. I mean, I played with Scottie the year he won. I've seen what can happen.

"I've had bad rounds here myself and I've had good rounds. You can make up four shots fairly quickly, but you have to do a lot of things right to do that."

Hideki Matsuyama is embracing the new experience of leading a major as the Japanese golfer stands on the brink of history following a red-hot performance at The Masters.

Matsuyama seized control of the tournament at Augusta, where the five-time PGA Tour champion earned a four-stroke lead thanks to his flawless third-round 65 on Saturday.

After inclement weather halted proceedings, Matsuyama – chasing his maiden major title – jumped out of the blocks and gained six shots in seven holes to blitz the field in Georgia.

Matsuyama heads into Sunday's final round as the player to beat at 11 under through 54 holes, ahead of Xander Schauffele, March Leishman, Justin rose and Will Zalatoris, while looking to become the first Japanese man to win a major event.

"This will be a new experience for me, being a leader going into the final round in a major," said Matsuyama, who was one under before the weather delay.

"All I can do is just relax as I can tonight, prepare well and just do my best tomorrow."

Matsuyama – making his 87th start since his last victory at the 2017 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational – posted the first bogey-free round this week and his best score in 37 rounds at The Masters.

The 29-year-old, who birdied the seventh hole on a bogey-free front nine, was red hot following the turn, birdieing the 11th and 12th.

Unstoppable, Matsuyama eagled the 15th before following that up with back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th as he soared to 11 under through 54 holes.

"During the rain delay, or right before the rain delay, I probably hit the worst shot I've hit this week," he said. "And during the rain delay, I just figured, I can't hit anything worse than that. And so maybe it relieved some pressure."

"Before the horn blew, I didn't hit a very good drive, but after the horn blew for the restart, I hit practically every shot exactly how I wanted to," continued Matsuyama.

Matsuyama was off the pace at the start of the day but turned the tables to soar to the summit.

Asked what he would have thought had he been told he would end the day four strokes lead, Matsuyama added: "Maybe I wouldn't have believed it, but I did play well today.

"And my game plan was carried out, and hopefully tomorrow I can continue good form."

Matsuyama has been paired with 2019 Masters runner-up and former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Schauffele in the final round.

Of the last 30 Masters champions, 25 have come from the last pairing.

Hideki Matsuyama produced a flawless seven-under-par 65 as his stunning late blitz earned a four-stroke lead heading into the final round of The Masters.

Matsuyama – chasing his maiden major title and Japan's first in men's golf – made a huge splash on moving day at Augusta, where the 29-year-old seized control following a weather delay on Saturday.

After inclement weather halted proceedings, Matsuyama jumped out of the blocks and gained six shots in seven holes to leave overnight leader Justin Rose in his tracks.

Matsuyama – who birdied the seventh hole on a bogey-free front nine – was red hot following the turn, the five-time PGA Tour champion birdieing the 11th and 12th.

Unstoppable, Matsuyama eagled the 15th before following that up with back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th as he soared to 11 under through 54 holes.

Matsuyama – making his 87th start since his last victory at the 2017 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational – posted the first bogey-free round this week and his best score in 37 rounds at The Masters.

Xander Schauffele and Marc Leishman also made their moves to join Rose and Will Zalatoris in a share of second spot heading into Sunday's final round.

Runner-up in 2019, American Schauffele improved 10 positions thanks to a third-round 68, which included an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys.

Leishman (70) – who finished tied for fourth in 2013 – enjoyed a strong finish, with two birdies from his final bogey-free six holes leaving him in a mix to become just the second Australian to win a green jacket after Adam Scott (2013).

The penultimate day did not go according to plan for Englishman Rose, who signed for a second consecutive 72 in Georgia.

It was a mixed day for Rose as the one-time major champion split three birdies and as many bogeys, while American Zalatoris (71) is also seven under overall.

Highlighted by an ace on the sixth hole, Corey Conners posted a four-under-par 68 to be outright sixth, five strokes behind Matsuyama.

Former world number one and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth – who ended his near-four-year title drought last week – will begin Sunday six shots off the pace following his 72.

Another former Masters winner, 2018 champion Patrick Reed, is four strokes further back after shooting a two-under-par 70 to be level alongside Justin Thomas (75) and last year's runner-up Cameron Smith (73).

A weather delay gave Augusta leader Justin Rose time to reflect on a mixed start to Saturday's play at The Masters.

Rose had led by four strokes after the first round but saw that advantage cut to a single shot on Friday, with Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman his closest challengers.

The one-time major champion was last out on moving day but quickly set about restoring a healthy lead.

Indeed, birdies at the first two holes had Rose three clear at nine under, yet this hot streak did not last.

Rose found the bunker at four and could only rescue a bogey, before befalling the same fate at the fifth, the sand contributing again.

The Englishman recovered with par at the sixth and had just played a solid tee shot at seven when an official approached and sounded the horn to signal an imminent storm.

As play was suspended, Rose was again one ahead of Zalatoris, who was joined at six under by Marc Leishman.

Corey Conners was the day's big mover to that point, in a tie for fourth after playing 11 holes at three under.

Conners' hole in one at the par-three sixth was the highlight, coming straight after the first of two bogeys.

Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama - both one under for the day - were level with Conners, while Harman was back at four under following three bogeys and a birdie through seven.

Jordan Spieth's challenge faltered, although a superb birdie brought him back level with Harman after a double-bogey at seven had threatened to knock him out of contention entirely.

Patrick Reed - two under on Saturday and one under for the week - and Phil Mickelson - three under to reach even par - were among those to complete their rounds before the weather hit.

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