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Molinari edges clear ahead of final day Masters' shootout

Molinari on the 13th green today (Photo: Getty Images - European Tour )
Italian, Francesco Molinari, has finally created a separation between the leader and the chasers at the 2019 Masters but if today’s third round is anything to go by then the gap of two shots between Molinari and Tiger Woods and Tony Finau is hardly one for comfort.

The rounds of 64 today by Finau, Webb Simpson and Patrick Cantlay provide an indication as to just how far back we might need to go to identify a potential winner on day four although with the prospect of bad weather dominating the final round then any such considerations may well be pure folly.

So bad is the weather forecast for tomorrow that tournament officials have made the call to bring tees times forward by some five hours, play to be staged in three-balls and both the 1st and 10th tees used to ensure play is finished on schedule.

The possibility of play extending into Monday is one that provides all sorts of logistical complications for the folk at Augusta National and the need to get the championship finished on time is paramount.

Molinari began day three as one of the joint leaders and while it took him six holes to record his first birdie, that he finished the day with just one bogey in his opening 54 holes told the story of his outstanding play and course management throughout the opening three rounds.

A stunning and brave par save from the front bunker at the last, highlighted the manner in which Molinari has gone about his business, his breakthrough victory at last year’s Open Championship along with many other fine finishes around that time elevating his status in the eyes of the golfing world and more importantly in his own.

“I think today again we did very well strategy-wise,” said the leader after his round. “I hit the ball a little less well than yesterday but holed some very good putts especially on 4 and 5 to save par so I can only be happy about today.”

When asked about playing with Tiger Woods in tomorrow’s final round, Molinari was quick to point out that there were many others still in the mix.

“I wish I had only to worry about him but there is a few more that are going to come out tomorrow and shoot a low one. The weather is going to be a factor but if it stays the same then someone can go out and shoot 7, 8 or 9 under and jump up the leaderboard.”

As he so often is, Woods has been the talk for much of the week and today he created even more chatter with a round of 67 to get within 2 shots of the lead and he, along with Molinari and Finau, will play in the final group tomorrow.

Woods began with a bogey when he pulled his tee shot at the 5th but he bounced back with a birdie at the 6th and was on his way. Five further birdies would come his way and the Tiger Woods roars from the crowds reverberated around Augusta National in a way not heard for some time.

Delightful pitches from short of and behind the green at the par 5 13th and 15th holes respectively moved him within one of the lead and another at the 16th kept him in touch with Molinari who was playing four groups behind and making his own share of birdies.  

Finau had been out 90 minutes ahead of the final group and after racing to the turn in 6 under 30, he had the lead at that point. The momentum would slow a little with only two birdies on the way home but at 11 under and just two back he has the chance to win a first Masters in just his second attempt.   

Finau recorded a final round of 66 in last year’s Masters when finishing in a share 10th. If he was to go anywhere near such brilliance tomorrow, then a breakthrough major is not beyond him.

Brooks Koepka is on his own in 4th place at 10 under and three from the lead as he looks to add a third different and 4th major title to his already outstanding golfing CV. 

An eagle after what was a stunning drive and just a short iron approach at the 15th had him on the verge of the lead and although he missed realistic birdie opportunities over the final three holes he is very much in the mix for what promises to be a final day shootout of epic proportions.  

Adam Scott and Jason Day finished at 7 and 6 under respectively Scott, in particular, suffering one of his more frustrating days on the greens (and there have been plenty of them) with a series of missed putts from inside ten feet.

The quality of Scott's ball striking might still offer a chance tomorrow if he is able to convert just a few of the many opportunities he is creating but six shots from the lead he will need something special tomorrow and a lot of help from those ahead of him.

Cameron Smith was round in 69 to be at 3 under and in 25th place while Marc Leishman is another shot back in 31st position.

 

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