Tiger Woods's comeback from a career-threatening injury will continue at the Masters but his bid for a sixth Green Jacket ended on Saturday as world number one Scottie Scheffler closed on a first major title with a five-shot lead midway through the third round.

Scheffler turned up the heat on a cold, wind-whipped afternoon at Augusta National with birdies at two and three and two more at six and eight with a single bogey sandwiched in-between to reach the turn at 11-under.

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Only Australian Cameron Smith and South African Charl Schwartzel, with the help of an eagle at 10, could keep pace with the 25-year-old American.

Irishman Shane Lowry, Canadian Corey Connors, and Justin Thomas were the only other players within 10 shots of Scheffler, who is threatening to run away with the Green Jacket.

Woods is never one to wave the white flag but after returning a third-round 78 to fall 18 shots behind the leader, a record-equalling sixth Green Jacket will require a miracle even bigger than the one that allowed him to return to competitive golf 14 months after a car crash nearly took his right leg.

Playing his first competitive event in 508 days, Woods started the day nine behind Scheffler and needing to produce one of his famous third-round charges but the 15-times major champion quickly found himself in an even deeper hole when he bogeyed the first for the second straight day.

Wearing black pants and a white sweater with hands buried deep into his pockets to fight off the chill, Woods headed to the par-five second and immediately hit back by rolling in a three-foot putt for birdie.

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The cold did nothing to scare away fans who were packed 20 deep around the fifth green as Woods arrived, those at the back unable to catch even a glimpse of the 46-year-old as he lined up his putt.

That might have actually been a good thing as Woods saw his hopes of staying in the Green Jacket chase dim with a four putt double-bogey.

At this point the frustration was building and when Woods came up short on his tee shot on the par three sixth it was all he could do to keep himself from snapping his club over his knee.

As always Woods battled but another bogey at nine set the tone for a punishing back nine that ended bogey, bogey, double-bogey and a roaring ovation for a brave effort from the adoring gallery.