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Kuchar hopes 3rd time charmed in Masters hunt

AUGUSTA, Georgia -- Matt Kuchar flirted with a Masters title the past two years before faltering in the final round. This time, he's counting on experience to help him win a green jacket.

The 35-year-old American fired a four-under par 68 Saturday to grab a share of third on four-under 212, one stroke back of co-leaders Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth entering the final round at Augusta National.

Kuchar was a contender down the final holes two years ago but just missed out on the playoff Watson won and settled for third. Last year he was sixth entering the final round but fired a 73 and finished in a tie for eighth.

“I'm very excited to have another crack at it,” Kuchar said. “This is a position all of us hope to be in when we show up on Monday. It's one of those special places and awfully exciting to be in this position.”

But, Kuchar said, the legendary lightning-fast greens of Augusta National might be at their all-time meanest in Sunday's fight for the green jacket.

“The greens are as fast as I ever remember Masters greens. That's a bit on the frightening side,” Kuchar said. “But it's fun. That's why we come here.”

Kuchar says he plans no changes in his game plan from past years but admits some changes in himself might help his cause.

“There has been some maturity as far as course management is concerned,” Kuchar said. “I've learned how to put up the best score I can. I'm more comfortable playing golf with a chance to win a tournament.”

Kuchar, ranked seventh, was in contention the past two weeks in PGA events, settling for second last weekend at the Houston Open. He hopes that will mean more than memories of his near-miss last year.

“It was great to have a shot last Sunday to try to win a tournament,” Kuchar said.

“Last year is a long time ago in the game of golf. The last two weeks are fresher. I was in the hunt. I had chances. I'll take a lot more from the last two weeks than from a year ago.”

Kuchar does recall the pressure down the stretch on the back nine Sunday from two years ago.

“It was exciting,” Kuchar sad. “On the outskirts and I eagled the 15th hole to momentarily tie for the lead. Just a real thrill to be that close that far along on a Sunday.

“I'm certainly excited about my chances. It's going to be one of those unique and special days.”

Kuchar's third-round 68 matched the lowest of his career at Augusta National.

“I played some good steady golf, drove it well. I found myself in some good spots for birdie,” he said.

Kuchar birdied the par-5 15th after going over the green following two days of finding water when he came up short. This time he chipped to 12 feet and made the key putt.

“I never thought it would go that far over,” he said. “Had a steady round of golf, not a lot of mistakes. I felt like I was striking it with pretty good control. Nice to see a few putts go in.”

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Matt Kuchar chips to the 17th green during the third round of the Masters golf tournament Saturday, April 12. (AP)

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