Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose walk up the second fairway at Augusta in the final round of the Masters on Sunday. Photo: Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

AUGUSTA, Georgia – Justin Rose answered a bogey with three consecutive birdies to rejoin Sergio Garcia at the top of the US Masters leaderboard on Sunday and set up a back-nine showdown between the Englishman and the Spaniard for a Green Jacket.

Garcia and Rose began the day as co-leaders and with nine holes to play in the year’s first major were at 8-under-par, still deadlocked after contrasting starts.

The fiery Spaniard, bidding to end nearly two decades of major disappointment, got his day off to brilliant start, rolling in a short birdie putt at the first.

He then added another at the third on the way to a three-shot lead.

Rose was not as quick out of the gate, but after a bogey at the fifth, caught fire to reel off three straight birdies at six, seven and eight, displaying a silky putting touch to lay down the gauntlet and once again join Garcia at the top of the leaderboard.

Sitting three back of the pacesetters is American young gun Rickie Fowler, with South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, lurking one shot further adrift.

After a week of battling challenging weather from torrential rains to howling winds, golfers were greeted by ideal scoring conditions on Sunday, blue skies and a gentle breeze providing the perfect backdrop for some final-round drama.

Englishman Paul Casey made the most of conditions ringing up four birdies on an error free outward nine to get to 3-under alongside Belgian Thomas Pieters.

Four-times major winner Ernie Els playing in his 23rd Masters, took what could have been his final bow at Augusta National, signing off with a 6-over 78, leaving the South African rock bottom of the leaderboard on 20-over.

With his five-year exemption for winning the 2012 British Open about to expire, Els will not get an automatic invitation back to Augusta next year.

The Big Easy has not given up hope of playing in a 24th Masters, but will have to now qualify for the tournament like every other golfer.

“This tournament was just not for me,” said the South African, a Masters runner-up in 2000 and 2004. “But I have loved every minute of being here, and I’ll come back somehow.

“Maybe just to have a couple of beers.”

Latest Scores

-8 Justin Rose after 12 holes

-6 Thomas Pieters after 15 holes

-6 Sergio Garcia after 11 holes

-5 Matt Kuchar after 17 holes

-4 Charl Schwartzel after 14 holes

-4 Adam Scott after 14 holes

-4 Rickie Fowler after 13 holes