Francesco Molinari blocked out the buzz from Tiger Woods charging up the leaderboard at the Masters and produced solid golf that looks spectacular only on the scorecard.
Molinari played bogey-free for the second straight round at Augusta National and took advantage of the rain-softened course for a six-under 66, giving the British Open champion a two-shot lead going into a final day like no other at the Masters.
Because of severe storms in the forecast, the final round will start off hours early, teeing off on both sides and with players in threesomes instead of pairs. Officials hope that speeds up the finish to early afternoon, ahead of the rain.
That puts Woods in the final group of a major for the first time since the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, where he gave up a two-shot lead on the final day to Y.E. Yang.
Woods made three straight birdies on the front and finished with three birdies over his last six holes for a 67, his best score at the Masters since the final round in 2011. Joining them will be Tony Finau, playing this year on two good ankles after a self-inflicted injury a year ago. He was part of a history-making Sunday as one of three players to shoot 64. Molinari was at 13-under 203, two shots ahead of Woods and Finau.
"Obviously, he's playing great," Molinari said of Woods. "But a lot of guys are playing great. I wish I only had to worry about him. I think a few more are going to come out tomorrow and try to shoot a low one."
Another shot behind was Brooks Koepka, who has won three of the last six majors and had a 69 despite four bogeys.
Woods has won all 14 of his majors when he had at least a share of the lead going into the final round. He brings momentum to this major, having contended in the last two.
"It's been a while since I've been in contention here," Woods said. "But then again, the last two majors count for something. I've been in the mix with a chance to win major championships in the last two years, and so that helps."
Molinari knows what kind of atmosphere Woods brings to a major. He was paired with him in the final round at Carnoustie last year, where Woods briefly took the lead and the Italian never flinched, playing bogey-free to capture his first major.
Augusta National might sound different than a tough links along the North Sea of Scotland.
This is where Woods first captured the attention of the sporting public when he set 20 records in winning the first of his four green jackets. This is the gallery that has longed to see him recapture the past, especially after four back surgeries that only two years ago left him hobbling up the stairs, wondering if he would play again.
Woods looked good as new, even for a 43-year-old who hasn't won a major in nearly 11 years. Not since 2013 in the British Open as Muirfield has he been within two shots of the lead.
He joined the chasing pack on a day when going neutral meant losing ground on a course in which 65 players combined to go 80-under par, at 70.77 the second-lowest scoring average in Masters history.
When he rolled in a seven-foot birdie putt on the par-three 16th, and the massive gallery rose to their feet with yet another ear-splitting roar, Woods became the ninth player on the day who had at least a share of the lead.
Molinari, playing in the final group, kept right on rolling.
When he saved par from a bunker on the 18th hole, it was his 43rd consecutive hole without a bogey. That streak started on the 11th hole on Thursday, and it's the only bogey he has made all week.
How it unfolded during the third round of the Masters (all times local):
Here are the latest odds to win the competition, with Francesco Molinari leading the pack and Tiger Woods right in the hunt:
Francesco Molinari: 6/4
Tiger Woods: 7/2
Brooks Koepka: 5/1
Tony Finau: 15/2
Dustin Johnson: 25/1
Webb Simpson: 28/1
Ian Poulter: 28/1
Xander Schauffele: 33/1
Louis Oosthuizen: 33/1
Adam Scott: 36/1
Scott finishes seven-under
It's a really disappointing end to Adam Scott's day, who drops another shot at the last and is right on the edge of relevance at seven-under - back exactly where he started on a day where so many of his competitors have made big moves.
Johnson slips to eight-under
Johnson will drop a shot anyway. He might rue that mistake on the approach, and can't hole a 20-foot par putt, so records a bogey at the last to slip back to eight-under.
His playing partner Oosthuizen has opposing fortunes. He's played the 18th really well, and a birdie three means he matches Johnson at eight-under. They're both four back, and might be playing together again tomorrow.
Johnson short on 18, but lucky
Dustin Johnson's approach at 18 is too short, and he's lucky it's been wet, because ordinarily that ball would be sliding all the way back down the hill and he'd be dropping shots. He's still nine-under and right in the hunt.
Molinari extends his lead
Francesco takes his opportunity at the 15th, and it's a birdie four which moves him to 13-under. He has a two-shot cushion now, with three to play. How he'd love to open up a gap of three or four, but it's every shot as it comes right now.
Meanwhile, Day has indeed double bogeyed 15, dropping him back to seven-under, and Scott drops one at 16. He's now eight-under.
Woods finishes with a 67
Jason Day's going for the green at the 15th, but it doesn't have the legs. It's rolling, rolling, rolling, and into the water. Big blow for the Australian, who might end up with a double bogey.
Tiger's birdie putt at 18 is a damn fine effort, and goes very close. He settles for par in the end for a round of 67, and sits one off Molinari at 11-under. Perfectly poised, you might say. Ready to pounce.
Ian Poulter, can he go one better? He can! It's birdie for Poults at the 18th, and he goes in nine-under. The Englishman has a very real shot at his first major.
Now's it's Koepka's birdie putt at 16. He slides it past the hole though. He stays two back.
Woods gets his 18th green ovation
Here's the main event. It's Tiger at 18, looking for the pin, but he's gone a bit further than he'd like, and he'll need a miracle putt to get a birdie. Poulter's is closer, but still a tough ask. Ian hangs back to let Woods walk up to the green alone and receive a huge ovation. They really do love him here.
Koepka is suddenly the hottest guy on the course, and has just played a lovely one off the tee at 16. He'll have a great chance to join Woods and Finau at 11-under.
Koepka eagles 15
Brooks Koepka's got himself to the green in two on 15, to within about eight feet in fact, and he's only gone and nailed the eagle putt! Just like that he's 10-under, and two off the lead.
His fellow American Johnson almost makes another birdie at 16, the putt could not have been much closer, but he has to settle for par at the par-three.
Adam Scott also has a big chance, looking to go 10-under at 15, but his birdie putt is no good.
Johnson and Day make ground
Woods and Poulter have both parred the 17th, and now Woods has launched a ripper off the 18th tee. Can he get the birdie at the last to tie Molinari for the lead as he heads in for the day?
Dustin Johnson has a birdie at 15, so he's now nine-under, and Jason Day's done the same at the 14th, and joins him on the same score. Man, this is so wide open. I'm not sure what to do with myself.
Molinari into the lead!
If Tiger's on the charge then Molinari's on the march, and the Open champion now owns the lead outright after another birdie at the par-four 14th - that's three in a row for the Italian, and he's 12-under.
Koepka's just smoked his drive up the 15th, and Woods and Poulter both look good at 17. We're nearing the home stretch now.
Tiger has a share of the lead at the Masters. Just sayin'.
-11: Finau (F), Woods (16), Molinari (13)
-9: Simpson (F), Schauffele (15), Scott (14)
Tiger Woods rolled in a birdie on the par-3 16th to pull even with leaders Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari at 11 under . Woods's drive planted on the green just seven feet from the cup, and his birdie putt was never in doubt. As the ball neared the lip of the cup, he stalked toward the hole like the Woods of old, brimming with confidence.
Finau is in the clubhouse, while British Open champion Molinari is through 13.
Look what Tony Finau can do when he doesn't dislocate his ankle during the par-3 contest at the Masters. The 29-year-old American became the third player to shoot an 8-under 64 in the third round of the Masters. He turned in a bogey-free round that includes six birdies and an eagle at No. 8, giving him a one-stroke lead when he left the course. Xander Schauffele of the United States and Italy's Francisco Molinari, the reigning British Open champion, are both at 10 under and playing the back nine.Finau's brilliant round matched Webb Simpson and early starter Patrick Cantlay. It's the first time three players have shot 64 or better in a single round of the Masters.The tournament record is 63. Until now, Finau was best known at Augusta for dislocating his ankle a year ago while celebrating an ace in the par-3 tournament that precedes the Masters. He went on to finish in a tie for 10th.
This is a tradition unlike any other for the Masters — an early start Sunday with hopes of finishing ahead of thunderstorms. Players will start in threesomes on the first and 10th tees, with the first group out at 7:30 a.m. The leaders will tee off at 9 a.m., about six hours earlier than a typical Sunday at Augusta National.Assuming there are no delays, the final round should end about 2:30 p.m.CBS Sports will broadcast the final round starting at 9 a.m.Club chairman Fred Ridley says an early start gives the tournament the best chance to avoid rain and end on Sunday. The Masters has not gone to a Monday finish since Seve Ballesteros won in 1983.
Tony Finau continues to take advantage of forgiving conditions at Augusta National, taking a two-shot lead at 11-under after a birdie on No. 15.He's one of several players who are having success during the third round of the Masters. Webb Simpson and Patrick Cantlay both shot an 8-under 64, just one shot away from tying the Masters record.Finau is already at 8-under for the day through 16 holes, giving him a chance at making history. Simpson, Xander Schauffele and Francesco Molinari are two shots behind Finau. Tigers Woods, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka are three back.
Tony Finau and Webb Simpson both made eagles during their third round at the Masters, helping them make big gains on the leaderboard.
Finau hit his second shot on the par-5 No. 8 to within eight inches of the cup for an easy eagle putt. Simpson made a 37-foot putt for eagle on No. 13. Finau now leads the tournament at 9-under and Simpson, Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott and Brooks Koepka are one shot back. There could be several low scores at Augusta National today. There is little wind, and recent rain has led to a softer course with more forgiving greens.
Patrick Cantlay leaped up the leaderboard with an 8-under 64, the low round of this Masters so far. Cantlay, who began the day nine shots off the lead, moved to within a shot of a group of leaders who had yet to tee off when he finished. He got up and down from the fairway on the 18th hole to finish off a bogey-free round. Playing in his third Masters, Cantlay made four birdies on the front nine and four on the back to move to 6-under for the tournament. He moved up 43 spots on the leaderboard after beginning the day in a tie for 50th. Cantlay's previous best round at Augusta National was a 71.
Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson began his third round with a par on No. 1.The 48-year-old Mickelson started Saturday three shots behind the leaders on a crowded leaderboard that includes a five-way tie for first place. Several other big names are scheduled to begin their third round within the next hour, including Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott and Brooks Koepka.Patrick Cantlay was one of the big movers so far during the third round. He was 7-under for the day through 15 holes which put him two shots behind the leaders.
Jordan Spieth had an encouraging start to his third round after a birdie on No. 1.Those good feelings didn't last long. He sent his tee shot on No. 2 way to the right and into the trees, setting off a tough chain of shots that eventually resulted in a double bogey.He recovered with a birdie on No. 3, but the inconsistent play has kept him away from the top of the leaderboard. Spieth, the 2015 Masters Champion, is at even-par for the tournament, seven shots behind the leaders.Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen are in a five-way tie for the lead. They are all scheduled to tee off Saturday between 2:25 and 2:45 p.m.Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Justin Harding and Xander Schauffele are all one shot back.