AUGUSTA, Ga. – After the 16th hole of his third round at the Masters, Jordan Spieth — grinder, closer, winner, precocious record-setter, champion — held a four-shot lead.
Then he bogeyed the 17th. Then he double-bogeyed the 18th.
Spieth's stumble left him with a mere one-shot lead over Smylie Kaufman and two shots clear of 58-year-old Bernhard Langer and Hideki Matsuyama.
How do you recover from wasting three shots? "Probably go break something real quick,'' Spieth said. "Then go have dinner and watch a movie.''
Spieth set a record by holding a lead at the Masters in seven consecutive rounds. He is trying to become the first player to win the Masters in consecutive years since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002, and the fourth player ever to accomplish the feat.
He is at once at the cusp of historical achievement and embarrassing collapse, depending on how he plays Sunday in the final round.
If he wins, Spieth will have collected three majors before turning 23. If he loses, he will join a long list of players who can look at the golden Masters logo with regret.
"It was a really tough finish, to go from holding a four-shot lead and being in a similar position to last year to it being anyone's game," Spieth said. "It's tough to swallow that.
"If you told me I'd hold the 54-hole lead, I'd be very happy with that. So it's mixed feelings."
In 30 years, no player has made more than one double bogey during a tournament and won a major. Spieth made two in eight holes on the back nine on Saturday.
His misadventures brought a fascinating group of contenders within reach.
Smylie Kaufman, who has a brother named Luckie, is one shot behind and will play in the final pairing with Spieth. Langer, who is trying to become the oldest major winner by a decade, is two shots behind, along with Matsuyama, a gifted iron player.
Jason Day, the top-ranked player in the world, is three back along with Dustin Johnson and the fast-rising Danny Willett.
Even on a beautiful day on the world's most celebrated beautiful golf course, Saturday was made for HD TV. If you tried to follow Spieth and Rory McIlroy around Augusta National, you were left cheering for golf caps — either Spieth's dark blue or McIlroy's lighter blue.
Masters veterans said they weren't sure they had ever seen Saturday galleries so large, or so quiet. Those who hadn't planted a chair early in the morning were left to watch blue caps bobbing above the crowd.
McIlroy may have preferred anonymity. He fell from second to tied for 11th by shooting a 77.
For the first time, the last weekend pairing at the Masters featured two players with multiple major victories at age 26 or younger. Spieth and McIlroy had played head to head previously 14 times, and McIlroy held a 28-shot advantage.
Saturday, Spieth threw away three shots in the last two holes and still beat McIlroy by four.
"To be honest with you, I would be feeling a lot worse about myself if I hadn't just seen what Jordan did those last two holes," McIlroy said. "I sort of take a bit of heart from that, that I'm still in this golf tournament.
"Standing on the 17 tee I didn't feel I was. I was eight back. But it just shows you how fast things can happen on this golf course, especially when the conditions are like they are."
McIlroy said he felt like he was trying to play "upstream." Every other player other than Spieth should be able to commiserate. Even with his poor finish, Spieth became only the second Masters champion to hold an outright 54-hole lead, along with Ben Hogan in 1954. Hogan lost to Sam Snead in a playoff.
"It's not going to be a very fun night tonight," Spieth said. "Hopefully I'll sleep it off."
Spieth leads the Masters and is talking about his game the way a partygoer would refer to a bottle of cheap vodka.
He's being chased by young and old, the celebrated and the anonymous. Sleep might be difficult to come by.