Notes: Snedeker's hot putter leads to 68

Brandt Snedeker hits off the third fairway during the third round of the Masters.

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Brandt Snedeker knows exactly why he was able to shoot a 4-under 68 on Saturday at Augusta National.

Putting.

"I feel like the first two days I hit the ball pretty similar as I did today, but I struggled with the putter," said Snedeker, who moved to 1 under for the tournament. "I missed a lot of 5-to-10 footers, which you have got to make around here if you want to play well. Today I made those putts. Besides the last hole, I played pretty flawlessly."

Snedeker's stats were impressive, hitting 11 fairways and 13 greens, while needing only 28 putts (including no three-putts).

He also birdied three of the four par 5s, only missing a chance on the eighth hole.

"Today I had nothing to lose from where I was. I was so far back, I needed to be aggressive and go after the par 5s," said Snedeker, who has nine birdies on the par 5s this week. "I had some chances at eagle, but wasn't able to make them work out. It was definitely a day to be aggressive for me."

The benefit of Saturday's brilliant round for Snedeker? He can actually think about what he needs to do on Sunday to contend.

"I think (I need to go) 2 or 3 under on the front nine," Snedeker said. "I'm going to give myself a shouting chance on the back nine, go out and be aggressive on the back nine, the two par 5s, maybe post a 6- or 7-under par tomorrow and try to hit some pressure on those guys that will be playing later in the day."

- Nick Masuda

• • •

THE RACE IS ON: Amateurs Patrick Cantlay, Kelly Kraft and Hideki Matsuyama survived the cut this week, and each had varying levels of success getting around Augusta National on Saturday.

Matsuyama leads the impressive group of amateurs at 1 over after an even-par 72 on Saturday, actually getting himself to 2 under at one point in the round. The up-and-coming Japanese star birdied both par 5s on the front, but bogeyed both the par 5s on the back.

Meanwhile, Cantlay played with Thomas Bjorn in the third group out in the morning and fired a 2-over 74 and is at 7 over.

"I played really well, actually," said Cantlay, a UCLA sophomore. "I hit a lot of solid shots, and I rolled some good putts. It's just the score didn't really reflect it."

Kraft, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, had the worst round on Saturday, posting a 5-over 77 to drop to 10 over for the tournament.

- Nick Masuda

• • •

NO. 1 PROBLEM: The par-4 first hole is proving to be a tough opener for players, with none of the 63 competitors Saturday doing better than par.

The hole yielded only five birdies on Friday and three on Saturday.

With the rain this week, many tee shots are not getting much roll off the tee, making the long first hole play almost like a par 5.

The first hole has bitten Rory McIlroy twice, with the Northern Irishman making double bogey there on Thursday and Saturday.

- Nick Masuda

• • •

TOUGH CLOSER: Phil Mickelson is giving the wrong impression of Augusta National's 18th hole.

Despite Mickelson's three birdies on the tough closing hole this week, the par-4 18th has yielded only 24 birdies. There were seven on Thursday and nine on Friday.

On Saturday, only eight players picked up birdie, including four players inside the top 10 - Mickelson, leader Peter Hanson, Bubba Watson and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington.

"I think 18 has played long this week. You know, with no run on the ball, you're driving up a hill," said Harrington. "It's played into the wind a couple of times, so it's played long. I've hit 4‑iron ‑‑ I hit 5‑iron, 6‑iron today. It was a little shorter the first day. I think I might have hit 7‑iron. It's played long up that hill. It's a tough shot. You're hitting off an upslope uphill. So, yeah, it's certainly played tougher than other years."

- Nick Masuda

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