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Saturday, 13 April 2019
Francesco Molinari  (Getty Images)
Francesco Molinari (Getty Images)

Francesco Molinari and Tiger Woods are set to go head to head once again in a battle for the Green Jacket at the Masters Tournament.

Reigning Race to Dubai Champion Molinari carded a 66 to get to 13 under and lead the way heading into the final round at Augusta National Golf Club but Woods and fellow American Tony Finau were just two shots back.

Brooks Koepka was then at ten under as he seeks to hold three of the four Major Championship titles, a shot ahead of Ian Poulter and Webb Simpson.

Molinari is also a reigning Major Champion after his victory at The Open last summer, where he played his final round alongside Woods and claimed the Claret Jug at Carnoustie Golf Links.

The duo's careers first intertwined here at Augusta 13 years ago when Molinari caddied for brother Edoardo as the elder sibling played alongside defending Champion Woods after winning the US Amateur.

Woods defeated Molinari in the singles at the 2010 Ryder Cup but Molinari claimed a half two years later in the anchor match as Europe completed the Miracle at Medinah.

Molinari defeated Woods three times at Le Golf National in the autumn en route to claiming five points out of five to cap a stunning 2018 which also saw him win a Rolex Series event at the BMW PGA Championship.

Woods had a wonderful 2018 of his own as the 14 time Major Champion returned to the top of the game after several back surgeries, and an intriguing battle lies ahead on Sunday.

The pair are unlikely to get it all their own way, however, with Finau seeking a first Major after a stunning 64 on day three.

Due to the threat of storms later in the day, the players will go off the first and tenth tees in three balls in round four, with the first group teeing off at 7.30am and the leaders getting under way an hour and 50 minutes later.

My plan for tomorrow is to go out and do the same but I think there's going to be a few guys trying to mess up with my plan - Francesco Molinari

Molinari has gone 43 holes without a bogey, the best run at Augusta for 25 years, and is looking to become just the fifth reigning Open Champion to win the Masters.

"My plan for tomorrow is to go out and do the same but I think there's going to be a few guys trying to mess up with my plan," he said.

"He (Woods) obviously loves this place and he's playing great golf so I'm aware that it's not going to be easy tomorrow. I can just do my best but it's not like I can only worry about him."

Woods finished sixth at Carnoustie and second at the US PGA Championship, and is delighted to be back in contention at the scene of his first Major win as he goes for a fifth Green Jacket.

"It's been a while since I've been in contention here," he said. "But then again, the last two Majors counts for something. I've been in the mix with a chance to win Major Championships in the last two years and so that helps.

"I'm just thankful to be able to come back here and play again."

Finau started the day four shots off the lead but he holed a nine footer on the first, played a stunning bunker shot on the second, left himself a flick into the third and put a tee shot to 12 feet on the sixth to share the lead.

He almost made an albatross on the eighth but the eagle sent him to nine under as he matched the lowest ever front nine at Augusta with a 30.

Woods bogeyed the fifth but holed an 18 footer on the next, hit an approach to tap-in range on the seventh and birdied the eighth to get within one.

A tee shot to eight feet on the sixth brought Molinari a first birdie of the day but Finau got up and down from the sand on the 13th before Molinari made the most of the eighth.

Another birdie at the par five 15th gave Finau a two shot lead but Molinari and Woods set about chasing him down.

I'm just thankful to be able to come back here and play again - Tiger Woods

Woods got lucky after ragged drives on the ninth, 11th and 13th - birdieing the latter - and Molinari left himself a tap-in after his tee shot on the 12th.

Woods played a lovely chip on the 15th and holed a seven footer on the 16th to join the lead but Molinari was relentless, getting on the 13th and 15th in two and holing an eight footer on the 14th for four birdies in a row and a two shot lead.

American Koepka made five birdies and four bogeys in his first 14 holes but an eagle on the 15th catapulted him right into contention.

Simpson joined Finau in carding a 64 with an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey, and Poulter had five birdies and a bogey in a 68.

South African pair Justin Harding and Louis Oosthuizen were then at eight under alongside Americans Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Xander Schauffele.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1WOODS, TigerUSA18-13
T2JOHNSON, DustinUSA18-12
T2SCHAUFFELE, XanderUSA18-12
T2KOEPKA, BrooksUSA18-12
T5DAY, JasonAUS18-11
T5SIMPSON, WebbUSA18-11

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