Golf: Francesco Molinari leads Tiger Woods, Tony Finau by two shots

Tiger Woods.
American Tiger Woods. Photo credit: AAP

Tiger Woods will head into the final round of the Masters at Augusta National tied for second, two shots behind leader Francesco Molinari.

Woods shot his best score at Augusta National since 2011, a five-under-par 67 that lifted him Molinari after the third round at the Masters on Saturday.

Woods parlayed his 54-hole lead into victory in 2005, but he has not since added to his collection of four Green Jackets, despite coming close several times in the ensuing decade-plus.

He will start the final round joint second with fellow American Tony Finau, while Molinari will be the man to catch at 13-under.

The Italian is unlikely to be intimidated, after staringdown and overtaking Woods en route to winning last year’s British Open at Carnoustie, where they were paired in the final round.

Italian Francesco Molinari.
Italian Francesco Molinari. Photo credit: AAP

A victory would be Woods' fifth, leaving him second behind six-times champion Jack Nicklaus, while Arnold Palmer also had four victories.

Woods has been stuck on 14 major titles since the 2008 US Open, and the early holes in the third round offered little inkling of the fireworks ahead.

Four pars followed by a bogey at the difficult newly-lengthened fifth left him languishing at five-under-par.

For a time he failed to join the birdie party in benign condition on a course where marshmallow greens allowed for players to fire fearlessly at the pins.

But a 20-foot birdie at the sixth sparked his round as the 43-year-old quickly climbed up the leaderboard by picking up further shots at the next two holes.

Not that he was perfect over the middle holes.

He pushed his drives at the par-four ninth and 11th holes, but both times, fortunately, found a clear opening and had no trouble threading a recovery between the Georgia pines and saving par.

But his biggest piece of luck came at the par-five 13th, where he hooked his drive so far left that the ball seemed more likely to end up in adjacent Augusta Country Club than stay in Augusta National. But it hit a tree and fell to earth right of Rae’s Creek tributary, in the clear in light rough.

He took advantage of the break, punching his second shot to wedge range and then skipping his next up to set up a birdie.

Further birdies followed at the par-five 15th and par-three 16th.


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