Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera were tied for the lead at seven-under par 209 after the third round of the Masters last night.
Snedeker opened on four under, two back from 36-hole leader Jason Day of Australia, and he parred the first 12 holes before advancing with three birdies in four holes to get to seven under.
Cabrera, the 2009 Masters winner, also picked up three shots on the day, making a birdie at the last to finish, like Snedeker, with a three-under 69.
Day, who led the field by one overnight, looked set to join Snedeker and Cabrera in a three-way tie for the lead, but he missed short putts at the last two holes to slip back to five under.
That was one back of countryman Adam Scott (69), who was alone in third at six under.
A third Australian, Marc Leishman, was level with Day at five under after a 72 with Matt Kuchar (69) alone on four under and South African Tim Clark on three under after a 67, the best round of the day.
Level with Clark was Tiger Woods, who was hit with a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop before the round started, but then clawed his back into contention at three under with a round of 70.
The 32-year-old Snedeker, who was the form player on the PGA Tour at the start of the year before picking up a rib cage injury, said that he would call on all the experience he gained while sharing third Trevor Immelman at the 2008 Masters.
"I had no clue what I was doing in 2008. I had no game plan, no idea of when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, how to play this golf course the way you're supposed to play it," he said.
"I have a completely clear focus of what I need to do tomorrow, clear set of goals that I need to hit. If I do that, I have a chance to win this golf tournament.
"I'm not here to get a good finish. I'm not here to finish top five. I'm here to win and that's all I'm going to be focused on tomorrow."
Cabrera, who also won the 2007 US Open but who has had a miserable season to date in the United States, said that he had learnt how to best play Augusta National over the course of his 13 previous campaigns.
"I think it's important that you know where to miss. That's very important, to know where to miss," he said.
"In 2009, I was nervous, anxious. But now I'm very comfortable. I know what I've got to do tomorrow to be able to get the win."
Woods, whose faulty drop at the 15th hole on Friday brought the early morning two-stroke sanction and sparked calls from some former players for him to be disqualified, opened with a birdie, but fell away to level par through 11 holes.
But he then picked up shots at 12, 13 and 15 to edge himself back into contention.
The world number one began the day with an early morning meeting with the Augusta National competition committee, which imposed the penalty on him for an improper drop at the par-5 15th hole in Friday's second round.
"I made a mistake. Under the rules of golf, I made an improper drop and I got a penalty," Woods said. "I'm abiding by the rules."
The committee had checked the drop and ruled it proper on Friday after a television viewer inquiry, but comments by Woods in a post-round television interview opened the door to reconsider the ruling.
After hitting the flagstick with his third shot at 15 on Friday and seeing his ball roll into a water hazard, Woods had said he dropped the ball two yards back from the original shot to avoid a similar risk on the next shot.
When Augusta National competition committee chairman Fred Ridley saw those remarks, the group reversed itself and imposed the penalty, but it would have been within its rights to disqualify Woods for signing an incorrect scorecard.
"Take the fact that it was Tiger out of the equation and it is a fair ruling," tweeted Graeme McDowell, who missed the cut. "Since it is him the debate begins about TV ratings etc etc."
Ridley said Woods was treated like any other golfer.
"I thought (on Friday) Tiger had done his best to comply," Ridley said. "Other people may disagree with that. It was my decision.
"It would have been grossly unfair to Tiger to have disqualified him. If this had been John Smith from wherever he would have gotten the same ruling because it's the right ruling under the circumstances."
Instead, a rule change approved in 2011 governing such situations allowed for a two-stroke penalty rather than disqualification for a player who unknowingly makes a violation, which Ridley ruled Woods had done.
"It was certainly a distraction early with the routine but it's like anything, it happens and you move on," Woods said. "I was ready to play come game time."
The ruling sparked furious comments from former players who were accustomed to players withdrawing themselves if they found they had made a violation, none more so than three-time Masters winner Nick Faldo of England.
"He should really sit down and think about this and the mark this will leave on his career, his legacy, everything," Faldo said on The Golf Channel.
"It's just dreadful. Tiger is judge and jury on this. There is absolutely no intention to drop as close to the divot. That's a breach of the rules."
Meanwhile Rory McIlroy, the world number two and winner of the previous major at the PGA Championship in August, shot himself out of the tournament with a 79 that included a triple bogey at the 11th and a double at the 15th to stand at five over.
"It's very disappointing. I feel like I was playing well and feel like I have been playing well coming in here and it's just a frustrating day here," said McIlroy, who has been struggling since the start of the year when he changed his golfing equipment.
The English challenge stuttered as Lee Westwood had a 73 to slip to two under, Justin Rose carded a 75 for level par and Luke Donald managed only a 75 to sink to two over.
Phil Mickelson's hopes were shattered as the three-time former winner slipped out to eight over with a 77, while defending champion Bubba Watson, out first alone, came in with a 70 to get to two over.
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