Molinari leads by two at Masters; Tiger, Finau two back

Tiger Woods gave everyone something to talk about, and he’ll be in the final threesome for Sunday’s final round of the Masters.

Italy’s Francesco Molinari shot 6-under 66 to hold the lead through 54 holes, on a day in which Woods moved to a share of the lead briefly Saturday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

Despite three pars to end his round, Molinari sits at 13-under 203 and holds a two-shot lead on Woods and Tony Finau going to Sunday’s final round.

“This is now three straight majors that I’ve been in the mix and so it’s good stuff,” Woods said.

Woods surged into a tie for the lead with three birdies in a four-hole stretch, capped by a 5-foot putt on the 16th hole. He finished the round with 67.

Shortly after Woods reached 11 under, Molinari moved alone to the top with his third straight birdie when he rolled in a putt on No. 14. He added a two-putt birdie at the par-5 15th to make it four in a row.

“Today we did very well strategy-wise, hit the ball a little less well than yesterday, but holed some very good putts,” Molinari said afterward. “Obviously, I can only be happy about today, and it’s going to be an exciting day tomorrow.”

Finau posted 64 to rise to 11 under, the third player on the day to shoot 8 under, one stroke off the course record. He managed two more birdies on the back nine, finishing with three straight pars.

Brooks Koepka shot 69 and is alone in fourth place at 10 under.

“You’re going to be tested in a major championship one way or another,” Koepka said. “I’ve just got to deal with whatever comes.”

Webb Simpson shot 64 to move to 9 under. He’s joined by England’s Ian Poulter, who posted 68.

Poulter said he has become a fan of Molinari’s and expects him to be in the mix until the end.

“It’s pretty darn good,” Poulter said of Molinari’s game. “He hits it straight, he’s now got a fantastic short game and he holes lots of putts. So I mean that’s the reason why he’s got the [Claret] Jug (from the 2018 British Open) and he’s good, he’s really good.”

Sunday’s final round has been revamped because of weather concerns, creating some unprecedented moves by tournament officials. Two tees will be used, and players will be grouped into threesomes, with leaders set to tee off at 9:20 a.m. and a goal of completing the round by mid-afternoon.

Woods, who will be in the final threesome with Molinari and Finau, said he plans to wake up by 4 a.m. to prepare his body for the final round.

Finau played the round’s first eight holes in 6 under, capped by an eagle 3 on the par-5 eighth hole. He birdied the hole the first two rounds.

“I know it’s a golf course I can score on,” said Finau, who just missed a birdie putt to set a new Masters front-nine low of 29, settling for 30 instead.

For Finau, it required some patience the first couple of rounds. He said he sensed he had a low number in him.

“I like how I’ve played thus far,” he said. “I’m draining it really good.”

Xander Schauffele (70) is among five players at 8 under. Schauffele said he has developed a comfort level considering what’s at stake and roars from the galleries coming from around the course.

“There’s so much noise around just trying to play golf,” Schauffele said. “And this year I felt I did a better job sort of hushing it down and sticking to ready golf.”

Matt Kuchar (68) moved to 8 under to stay in contention. As a Georgia Tech golfer, he was the tournament’s low amateur in 1998.

“I feel good about the way I’ve been playing this year,” Kuchar said. “And certainly coming into this week. So hoping to continue the good play.”

Saturday had become an historic day in the Masters with the third round beginning with five golfers tied for the top spot and four others a stroke back. The tournament’s leaderboard had never been so crowded at that stage.

There was an early buzz created by Patrick Cantlay, who authored the first 64 of the day.

Cantlay was tied for 50th after two rounds, but he exited the course just one shot out of the lead and enters the final round tied for 14th and seven shots back.

He didn’t have a bogey in the round. His previous best mark in the Masters was a 71.

Phil Mickelson (70) is among a group of five others tied with Cantlay at 6 under.

–Field Level Media

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