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Golf: Aussie trio in the hunt to break Masters hex

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

No Australian has ever won the Masters, but Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Jason Day enter Sunday's final round at Augusta National with a golden opportunity to end the green jacket jinx.

But of course, the homeland of treble Masters heartache runner-up Greg Norman will have to do it the hard way -- fighting from behind with world number one Tiger Woods lurking only four strokes off the lead as well.

"It's going to be a tense day," Scott said. "We've got another great chance. Three of us right there knocking on the door so there's no better time to never have to deal with that question again than if you go out and play good."

Argentina's Angel Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion, and American Brandt Snedeker, seeking his first major title, share the 54-hole lead at Augusta National on seven-under par 209 after each fired a three-under 69 on Saturday.

Scott, who squandered a chance for his first major title at last year's British Open when he took bogeys on the last four holes, also fired a 69 to stand third on 210, one stroke ahead of Day and Leishman.

Day, who shared 2011 Masters runner-up honors with Scott in another Aussie near-miss, finished bogey-bogey to fall from a share of the lead while Leishman fired a 72, a bogey at 17 dropping him back.

"There's three of us near the lead so this is our best chance," 2009 US PGA Rookie of the Year Leishman said. "Maybe we will take that Aussie curse off."

Norman took a bogey at the 18th in the 1986 Masters to hand Jack Nicklaus his 18th and last major title. In 1987, Norman lost a Masters playoff when Augusta native Larry Mize holed a miraculous chip shot.

But in 1996, Norman suffered the greatest last-round collapse in major golf history, leading by six over Nick Faldo only to lose by five to the Englishman.

"Greg, he was my idol as a kid so he had a huge influence on me," Scott said. "He was a great role model. I think he handled himself so well in all of these situations.

"To win the Masters would be incredible. It would be incredible for Australia. We've never looked better odds-wise except for that one day in '96. With three of us all right up there it's going to be a hell of a day tomorrow."

In 2011, Scott and Day shared second, falling short when South African Charl Schwartzel became the first man to birdie the final four holes to win a major.

"A couple years ago, I felt like I did everything I could and it wasn't enough," Scott said. "But it's going to take a great round tomorrow. There are too many great players right there.

"I know someone else is going to play well, so I'm going to need to really have a career round. That's what these big events do for someone. It's a career round that makes them a champion."

One less bogey last July at Royal Lytham and Scott would speak from championship experience.

"I don't really think I need to do too much different," Scott said. "Everything I'm doing seems to be getting me there right at the end. If I'm in the same position I was in at the Open last year, then I'm obviously playing an incredible round and I'll just be trying to finish the job."

Australians have won every other major golf crown, most recently by Geoff Ogilvy at the 2006 US Open, Norman at the 1993 British Open and Steve Elkington at the 1995 PGA Championship.

"It's a great opportunity for all of us to be the first," Day said. "So many Aussies in the past have had an opportunity to win the Masters and fell short a little bit, so if it happens tomorrow, that's great.

"If it doesn't, then we're going to keep plugging away."

Scott feels less like a fragile contender since he changed his schedule to suit himself in 2011 and became better at contending in majors.

"I just didn't know how to play the majors in years past," Scott said. "I just didn't play smart enough, or well enough for that matter. My confidence was too easily affected by a poor shot or poor hole and was a bit too fragile.

"But I think there's a lot more to it than that. Part of the preparation and the way you get ready protects you from being fragile as well. I'm doing all of these things better and that's why it's coming a little bit more often."

Scott would rather not ponder what the achieve would mean to Australia until it happens.

"It's hard to say exactly what it means," he said. "But, look, Aussies are proud sporting people and we would love to put another notch in our belt, just like any great sporting country.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130413/golf-aussie-trio-the-hunt-break-masters-hex