Molinari grabs Masters lead with Tiger, Finau two back

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Since last year's Masters, Molinari, 36, has four worldwide victories, including The Open, the European Tour's BMW Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month.

McIlroy matched his Masters career low in last year's third round on the way to fifth place, his fifth Masters top-10 in a row, but never looked to duplicate the feat this time. "I've learned some things about that finish that I can apply to tomorrow and hopefully do better", Finau said.

The first group will now head to the first tee at 7:30am local time (12.30pm BST), around an hour and a half earlier than is traditional, and the players will go out in threeballs and using a two-tee start.

"The safety of everyone on our grounds is paramount", Fred Ridley, Augusta National's chairman, said in a statement.

The four-time major victor probably will struggle just to extend his run of top-10 Masters finishes. And clean up his play on the par-5s, which have seen him make just three birdies and a bogey and go 2 under on them through two rounds.

One of the first of the leaders to reach the clubhouse at seven under was Italy's Molinari, who went round alongside Woods on his first visit to Augusta in 2006.

Four others, including Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, are a shot back going into what should be an eventful weekend on a golf course that so far has been there for the taking. On the par-5 eighth hole, Tiger had 10 feet for eagle and did not hit the hole.

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"But I also made some distance putts there at 9, 14, 15". Finau now leads the tournament at 9-under and Simpson, Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott and Brooks Koepka are one shot back. There is little wind, and recent rain has led to a softer course with more forgiving greens.

Golf's best worked their way to the top of the leaderboard at a Masters pregnant with possibilities. Woods briefly took the lead at Carnoustie previous year, but the Italian never flinched, playing bogey-free to capture his first major.

After bogeying the fifth hole for the third straight day, Woods reeled off birdies at the 6th, 7th and 8th holes, and added three more on the second nine as he moved into a tie for second.

Record scores on the white boards at Augusta National.

On Saturday afternoon, after the third round of the Masters had concluded, President Trump praised Woods on Twitter and wished all the competitors good luck heading into final round action on Sunday.

Woods, who last slipped on the Green Jacket in 2005, will start Sunday's final round with Molinari and Tony Finau.

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