By Allan Kelly ,AFP
AUGUSTA, Georgia — Jordan Spieth held at bay a gallery of golfing greats at the Masters for most of Saturday’s third round before a nervy finish opened the door slightly for his closest rivals. Leading by a record-equaling five shots at the halfway stage of the year’s first major, Spieth had already felt the heat from the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods even before he teed off at Augusta National. Then Phil Mickelson entered the fray with a triple-birdie blast early on that hauled the three-time former winner into firm contention. Finally, England’s Justin Rose came at him late in the day. But they all needed Spieth to falter and he gave few signs of doing that before coughing up a double-bogey at the 17th. By the end of the day, Spieth, with a two-under par 70 for a Masters-record 54-hole total of 200, was four ahead of Rose, who had birdies at 16 and 18 for a 67. Mickelson, who also had a 67, was alone in third on 205 with fellow American Charley Hoffman a further stroke back after a 71. Woods and McIlroy were on 210, 10 shots off the lead along with Dustin Johnson (73), Kevin Streelman (70) and Kevin Na (70). Spieth had set Augusta National alight with opening rounds of 64 and 66 that saw him record 15 birdies against just one bogey. In so doing, he became the youngest player to lead the Masters after the first round, and his 130 halfway total was the lowest-ever in 79 editions of the year’s first major. He was firmly in a winning position, but remained aware that he still had much to do, as he learned last year when he led the Masters after 54 holes, but ended up tied for second behind Bubba Watson.