AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The harsh cold and relentless wind. The lead late Saturday afternoon at the Masters. All the elements were there for Scottie Scheffler to start feeling the pressure of trying to win his first major at Augusta National.
Scheffler never looked worried until the final hole, and then only briefly.
His lead at 4 shots, his confidence level high, Scheffler's wild drive to the left of the 18th fairway into the trees didn't bother him nearly as much as the sight of the spotter poking around in the leaves in a desperate search for the golf ball.
"We saw the guy with the flag that always finds the balls kind of panicking," Scheffler said. "I was like, 'Oh, crap. Wonder what's going on there?' Fortunately, they found the ball. And then all I was trying to do was figure out how I was going to get it on the green."
Like everything else this week, Scheffler figured it out.
He took a 1-shot penalty, dropped it onto pine straw and then ripped a 3-iron from 240 yards that hit the green and rolled just over the back, leaving him two putts for a bogey that felt much better.
Scheffler had a 1-under 71 -- one of only nine scores under par in the third round -- that gave him a 3-shot lead over Cameron Smith going into Sunday.
Scheffler spent all day fending off the cold wind by slipping on a vest over his layers of clothing after every shot on every hole. Maybe his next wardrobe change will be a green jacket.
Cameron Smith had the low round at 68, the only player to break 70, and gave himself another shot at winning the Masters in his first start since his victory in the Players Championship. He was a runner-up to Dustin Johnson at Augusta two years ago.
"Should be a great fight tomorrow," Scheffler said. "Obviously Cam is a tremendous player, and he's got a fantastic short game, and he's coming off a huge win at the Players. Both of us are in good form, so I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge of playing with him tomorrow."
Sungjae Im (71), also a runner-up in 2020, was the only other player within 5 shots.
On such a cold day -- the wind chill was in the upper 40s most of the day -- perhaps this was a warmup for what Scheffler can expect Sunday at Augusta National, typically the greatest theater of the majors, especially for those seeking their first major.
The last player who failed to hold a lead of 3 shots or more going into the final round was then-21-year-old Rory McIlroy in 2011.
Scheffler looked as though he might turn this into a runaway when he made his fourth birdie of the round on the par-5 eighth and expanded his lead to 6 shots.
But then a shot from the front bunker on the par-3 12th went over the green. He bounced back with a birdie only to come up well short of the monstrous mound guarding the back right pin on the 14th for bogey, and three-putting the par-5 15th for another bogey.
Even after his best shot of the round, an approach to 4 feet for birdie on the 17th, he ran into big problems on the 18th. He yanked his tee shot into a canopy of trees and twisted branches, leaving him no choice but to take a penalty drop on the pine straw.
Bold as ever, he smashed his approach from 240 yards onto the green and just over the back, leaving him two putts to keep his distance.
"You hate bogeying the last hole, but the way I bogeyed it, it for sure felt like a par,'' Scheffler said. "Definitely a good finish to the day. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.''
Scheffler was at 9-under 207.
Scheffler and Smith might be the two hottest players in golf, too.
Scheffler has won three of his past five tournaments, all against some of the strongest fields of the year, a run that has elevated the 25-year-old from Dallas to No. 1 in the world.
Smith began the year by taking down the former No. 1 player, Jon Rahm, with a record score to par at Kapalua. His latest feat was to win the next best thing to a major, the Players Championship, last month.
"It just means I can get it done, I guess, when I'm up against the best guys in the world," Smith said. "It's a good feeling to have. It's earned. It's not given to you. So I'm going to have to go out there tomorrow and play really good golf again, probably similar to today. Hopefully, everything just falls into place."
Tiger Woods finished as Scheffler was still comfortably ahead, and the five-time Masters champion said he feels as though he has seen this before. Players hit peak form all the time, and it's especially sweet when that run is in the spring with the Masters on the calendar.
Woods won back-to-back ahead of his Masters victory in 2001. Jordan Spieth won and had a pair of runner-up finishes when he earned his green jacket in 2015. Fred Couples won twice and was runner-up twice ahead of his 1992 victory at Augusta.
"We all wish we had that two, three-month window when we get hot, and hopefully majors fall somewhere along in that window,'' Woods said. "We take care of it in those windows. Scottie seems to be in that window right now.''
Charl Schwartzel, who won the Masters in 2011, was trying to keep stride with Smith until he three-putted from about 8 feet for bogey on the 16th and dropped another shot on the 17th, slipping to a 73. He was at 2-under 214 along with Shane Lowry (73).
The Associated Press contributed to this story.