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Nightmare winds, dream pairing have Masters buzzing

Two of golf's young guns and most charismatic players, Spieth and McIlroy will take on each other.

FILE: Jordan Spieth of the United States holds up his ball after putting for birdie on the 13th green during the first round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on 7 April, 2016 in Augusta, Georgia. Picture: AFP.

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - Nightmare winds and a dream pairing had golf fans buzzing as defending champion Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy prepared for a wild third round at a windswept Augusta National on Saturday.

Two of golf's young guns and most charismatic players, Spieth and McIlroy will take on each other and hellish gusting winds in one of the most anticipated final pairings ever featured at the year's first major.

Spieth heads into the third round with a one-shot advantage, having held the outright Masters lead after a record six consecutive rounds, while McIlroy chased down his American rival with a late charge on Friday to put his major grand slam bid back on track.

Should the Northern Irishman triumph on Sunday, he would become only the sixth man to win all four of golf's blue riband events, joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

Scheduled to tee off at 2:50pm, world number two Spieth and third-ranked McIlroy could benefit from their late start with the local forecast predicting the winds to diminish late in the day.

"There's going to be a lot of shots we're going to see today which we don't normally see at Augusta," former world number one Nick Price, a three-time major winner who shares the Augusta National course record of 63 with Greg Norman, told Reuters.

"All these guys can hit the ball in the wind and control their distances pretty well in the wind but the putting, the short game, is going to be extremely hard."

Golfers have had to deal with baffling gusting winds of up to 30mph all week but on Saturday they were greeted by howling conditions that whipped up sand from the traps, and had the Georgia pines swaying and chairs cartwheeling down fairways.

With the winds providing the wild card, an international leader board that features golfers from seven different nations represented in the top 10 could whip up several surprises.

New Zealander Danny Lee and American Scott Piercy will start the chase two shots off the pace with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, Dane Soren Kjeldsen and American Brandt Snedeker a further stroke adrift.

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