Scott, Leishman, Day try to do what no Aussie has

Adam Scott during the third round of the 2013 Masters.

Adam Scott during the third round of the 2013 Masters.

— They’re trying to accomplish something their idol never could. He was so agonizingly close to victory here, but experienced only heartbreak. Now each member of this trio is not only seeking his first major, but trying to end Australia’s lack of success at Augusta National.

Adam Scott will start the Masters' final round one shot behind co-leaders Angel Cabrera and Brandt Snedeker. Marc Leishman and Jason Day are two shots back. Scott shot 69 Saturday to get to 6-under 210, while Leishman fired 72 and Day shot 73. All three grew up watching Greg Norman fall agonizingly short on multiple occasions.

“We’ve always wanted to play well here,” Day’s caddie/instructor, Col Swatton, said. “It’s an Aussie thing.”

Scott and Leishman will play together in the second-to-last group, while Day and Matt Kuchar will tee off one group in front of them. If Saturday was any indication, the field can expect a firmer and faster Augusta National for the final round.

“It seemed to play fairly tough out there,” Scott said. “The greens were firming out and getting faster.”

Scott and Day also know how to handle being in contention on the second nine on Masters Sunday. It was two years ago that they tied for second at Augusta National after being overtaken by Charl Schwartzel’s birdies on the final four holes. Scott also was runner-up at last year’s Open Championship, but that time the finish was his fault. He bogeyed his final four holes to lose to Ernie Els. Still, Scott is starting to contend more often at the majors.

“I just didn’t play smart enough or well enough for that matter,” he said. “My confidence was too easily affected by a poor shot or a poor hole and was a bit too fragile probably.”

Scott showed his fortitude Saturday on Augusta National’s second nine. He bogeyed No. 10 to fall to 3 under, then played his final eight holes in 3 under, two-putting for birdie at the 13th, then making birdies at Nos. 15 and 17.

Day’s finish wasn’t as strong. He was tied for the lead until three-putting from approximately 25 feet on each of the last two holes. Day has found the form he exhibited in 2011 – he also was runner-up in the U.S. Open and earned nearly $4 million on the PGA Tour while cracking the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking – after an offseason inspirational meeting.

The "board meeting" was called late last year. “They said, ‘You’re not working as hard as you could be,’” said Jason Day, recalling the meeting between Swatton, Day's wife, Ellie, and manager, Bud Martin. “The motivation wasn’t there," Day said. "It’s a slippery slope when you find yourself not wanting to play competitive golf as much as you just want to relax.”

Day had reasons, both good and bad, for distraction in 2012. The couple’s first child, son Dash, was born in July. There also were two injuries: back problems at the start of the year, and a left-ankle injury that forced him to withdraw from last year's Masters. The off-course events allowed Day to overlook his decreased effort. “I felt like I found excuses rather than put blame on myself,” he said.

Leishman, who earned his Masters invitation with his first PGA Tour victory at last year’s Travelers Championship, was the first-round leader here after his 66. He’s stayed in contention by shooting 73-72. He missed the cut in his debut in 2010, saying he was too much like a tourist and not a Tour player. Now he’s in the mix at the Masters, joining two of his countrymen as they try to end their country’s winless streak here.

“There’s three of us near the lead, so this is our best chance,” Leishman said.

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