AUGUSTA, Ga. — Francesco Molinari blocked out the excitement from Tiger Woods charging up the leaderboard Saturday on the Masters and produced strong golf that appears spectacular solely on the scorecard.

Molinari performed bogey-free for the second straight spherical at Augusta Nationwide and took benefit of the rain-softened course for a 6-under 66, giving the British Open champion a two-shot lead going right into a Sunday like no different on the Masters.

Due to extreme storms within the forecast, the ultimate spherical will begin off hours early, teeing off on either side and with gamers in threesomes as a substitute of pairs. Officers hope that quickens the end to early afternoon, forward of the rain.

That places Woods within the last group of a significant for the primary time for the reason that 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, the place he gave up a two-shot lead on the ultimate day to Y.E. Yang.

Woods made three straight birdies on the entrance and completed with three birdies over his final six holes for a 67, his finest rating on the Masters for the reason that last spherical in 2011. Becoming a member of them shall be Tony Finau, taking part in this yr on two good ankles after a self-inflicted damage a yr in the past . He was a part of a history-making Saturday as one in every of three gamers to shoot 64.

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Molinari was at 13-under 203, two photographs forward of Woods and Finau.

“Clearly, he’s taking part in nice,” Molinari stated of Woods. “However plenty of guys are taking part in nice. I want I solely needed to fear about him. I feel just a few extra are going to return out tomorrow and attempt to shoot a low one.”

One other shot behind was Brooks Koepka, who has gained three of the final six majors and had a 69 regardless of 4 bogeys.

Woods has gained all 14 of his majors when he had no less than a share of the lead going into the ultimate spherical. He brings momentum to this main, having contended within the final two.

“It’s been some time since I’ve been in rivalry right here,” Woods stated. “However then once more, the final two majors rely for one thing. I’ve been within the combine with an opportunity to win main championships within the final two years, and in order that helps.”

Molinari is aware of what sort of ambiance Woods brings to a significant. He was paired with him within the last spherical at Carnoustie final yr, the place Woods briefly took the lead and the Italian by no means flinched, taking part in bogey-free to seize his first main.

Augusta Nationwide would possibly sound completely different than a troublesome hyperlinks alongside the North Sea of Scotland.

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That is the place Woods first captured the eye of the sporting public when he set 20 data in profitable the primary of his 4 inexperienced jackets. That is the gallery that has longed to see him recapture the previous, particularly after 4 again surgical procedures that solely two years in the past left him hobbling up the steps, questioning if he would play once more.

Woods seemed good as new, even for a 43-year-old who hasn’t gained a significant in practically 11 years. Not since 2013 within the British Open as Muirfield has he been inside two photographs of the lead.

He joined the chasing pack on a day when going impartial meant shedding floor on a course through which 65 gamers mixed to go 80-under par, at 70.77 the second-lowest scoring common in Masters historical past.

When he rolled in a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th, and the large gallery rose to their toes with one more ear-splitting roar, Woods grew to become the ninth participant Saturday who had no less than a share of the lead.

Molinari, taking part in within the last group, saved proper on rolling.

When he saved par from a bunker on the 18th gap, it was his 43rd consecutive gap with no bogey. That streak began on the 11th gap on Thursday, and it’s the one bogey he has made all week.

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“I hit the ball rather less nicely than yesterday,” Molinari stated. “However I holed some actually good putts at Four and 5 to avoid wasting par. I can solely be blissful about immediately. Will probably be an thrilling day tomorrow.”

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