Augusta -Six months after being taunted by US Ryder Cup fans about having never won a major title, Sergio Garcia finds himself on the brink of a breakthrough at the Masters.
The 37-year-old Spaniard, winless in 73 prior major starts, fired a two-under par 70 Saturday at Augusta National to join European Ryder Cup teammate Justin Rose of England atop the leaderboard at six-under 210 for 54 holes.
"Having a chance of winning a major and winning here at Augusta, it's extra exciting," Garcia said. "So you do have to calm yourself down, not get ahead of yourself, take some nice, deep breaths. And then just try to cope with whatever comes your way the best way possible. That's really the only thing you can do."
Supportive fans at Augusta National were a far cry from the crowd Garcia faced at the US Ryder Cup triumph last October at Hazeltine chanting, "You've never won a major."
"I definitely know I haven't won a major," Garcia said to applause from his teammates. "I felt like maybe if I dream about it one day and I felt like I had a major, I definitely know I don't have it. I've been reminded of it plenty of times.
"The only thing I can do is hopefully change that up, so the next time we come to the US they will tell me, 'You only have one major,' or something like that, which will sound a little bit better."
In his 20th year of trying, after four major runner-up finishes, 12 top-five efforts and 22 top-10s, Garcia could be on the verge on ending the drought that has until now defined his career.
"We're going to go out there and do well again and just make sure we have a good chance coming into the last five or six holes and see what happens," Garcia said.
Having a pal alongside in Rose, the 2013 US Open and 2016 Rio Olympic champion, will ease the tension a bit even if they are friendly rivals for the green jacket.
"I'm sure it's going to be hard but fun with Justin," Garcia said. "We're friends and it doesn't matter... when you play with someone you enjoy, maybe it might help a little bit. But you still have to hit the shots yourself."
Garcia, a runner-up to Tiger Woods as a teen at the 1999 PGA Championship, has a best effort of fourth at Augusta and his relationship with the layout he called "too tricky" in 2009 has been rocky at best.
"It has definitely improved. There's no doubt about that. Nothing wrong with Augusta," Garcia said. "The main thing that has improved is the way I'm looking at it. It's the kind of place that if you are trying to fight against it, it's going to beat you down.
"You've just got to roll with it and realize that sometimes you're going to get good breaks and sometimes you're going to get not so good breaks. But at the end of the day, that's part of the game."
His third-round break was a 4-iron second shot at the par-5 13th seemingly condemned to Rae's Creek that clung to the far bank. he chipped inches from the cup and made a birdie.
"Probably it's because my mentality has changed a little bit, but I've definitely had some good breaks throughout all three rounds -- 13 obviously was one of them," Garcia said.
A victory Sunday would come on what would have been the 60th birthday of Garcia's idol, two-time Masters winner Seve Ballesteros, who died of brain cancer in 2011 at age 54.
He could also join Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal, who wrote him a supportive note this week before the tournament began, in the green jacket club.
"I don't even know how much it would mean to be able to join both of my idols as a Masters winner," Garcia said. "It would be nice to have a chance and hopefully do it."
Scores after Saturday's third round of the 81st Masters at par-72 Augusta National Golf Club:
210 - Justin Rose (ENG) 71-72-67, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 71-69-70
211 - Rickie Fowler (USA) 73-67-71
212 - Jordan Spieth (USA) 75-69-68, Ryan Moore (USA) 74-69-69, Charley Hoffman (USA) 65-75-72
213 - Adam Scott (AUS) 75-69-69
214 - Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 74-72-68
215 - Lee Westwood (ENG) 70-77-68, Thomas Pieters (BEL) 72-68-75
- Paul Casey (ENG) 72-75-69, Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 72-73-71, Matt Kuchar
(USA) 72-73-71, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 72-73-71, Jon Rahm (ESP) 73-70-73,
William McGirt (USA) 69-73-74
217 - Kevin Chappell (USA) 71-76-70, Jimmy Walker (USA) 76-71-70, Jason Dufner (USA) 71-76-70, Fred Couples (USA) 73-70-74
- Brandt Snedeker (USA) 75-74-69, Brooks Koepka (USA) 74-73-71, Pat
Perez (USA) 74-74-70, Russell Henley (USA) 71-76-71, Bill Haas (USA)
75-72-71, Phil Mickelson (USA) 71-73-74
219 - Jason Day (AUS) 74-76-69
220 - Justin Thomas (USA) 73-76-71, Steve Stricker (USA) 75-73-72, Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 76-70-74, Martin Kaymer (GER) 78-68-74
221 - Branden Grace (RSA) 76-74-71, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 78-72-71, Brian Stuard (USA) 77-70-74, Stewart Hagestad (USA) 74-73-74
- Daniel Berger (USA) 77-73-72, Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 71-78-73,
Emiliano Grillo (ARG) 79-70-73, Brendan Steele (USA) 74-73-75
223 - J.B. Holmes (USA) 78-72-73, Kevin Kisner (USA) 74-75-74, An Byeong Hun (KOR) 76-73-74
224 - Ross Fisher (ENG) 76-74-74, Daniel Summerhays (USA) 74-75-75, Adam Hadwin (CAN) 75-74-75, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 77-71-76
- Curtis Luck (AUS) 78-72-75, James Hahn (USA) 75-75-75, Andy Sullivan
(ENG) 71-78-76, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 77-72-76, Marc Leishman (AUS)
229 - Larry Mize (USA) 74-76-79
230 - Ernie Els (RSA) 72-75-83