Molinari seeks to end 71-year Italian drought on PGA Tour

03 July, 2018, 01:54 | Author: Virgil Todd
  • Tiger Woods plays from the rough on the 18th hole during the third round of The National golf tournament at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm

Marc Leishman and Tiger Woods will need to go low on Sunday to have any chance of winning the PGA Tour's Quicken Loans National, after ending the third round six shots behind co-leaders Francesco Molinari and Abraham Ancer.

The Italian (who has twice gone up against Woods in Ryder Cup singles) cruised to his first PGA Tour victory and eighth worldwide with a sizzling final round of 62 in searing conditions at TPC Potomac.

The 14-time major champion was collecting birdies in droves early in his third round at the Quicken Loans National, and by the time Woods reached the seventh hole on a steamy Saturday, he was within a stroke of the lead at the tournament he's hosted since 2007.

He continued to home in on the pins with his approach shots as he set off on the back nine, but missed birdie putts from inside 10 feet at the 10th and 11th holes took the wind out of his sails. The bad news: Woods was last in the field in putting from inside 10 feet, making 60 of 73.

Starting the day at three-under, Lahiri celebrated his 31st birthday with a birdie on 10th, his first hole of the day.

"I was a long way back in the FedEx standings so it's nice to catch up a little bit", Molinari said.

Ryan Armour (68) and Zac Blair (66) were two shots behind. "If I can do like I've done most of my career, putts go in".

"It was a lot easier than I thought", Molinari said with a wide grin.

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Woods answered by sinking a five-foot birdie putt at 16, but stumbled again at the finish.

"I know it's boring and everyone says the same but it's the way golf works".

The Quicken Loans National is without a title sponsor after this weekend, although Woods, 42, said he has been actively involved in negotiations to try to keep the event he founded in large part to honor military servicemen and women on the schedule.

"I was only four back at the time when I made the turn, and so I thought that maybe if I got on the back nine, I shot 30 - maybe 29 - that would be enough", Woods said. And thus, a really good round that turned into one that left him feeling frustrated.

"My introduction to links golf could not have been any better as I played the Scottish Open at Carnoustie and the very next week I played the British at St. Andrews", he said.

Molinari blasted out of a bunker to three feet at the par-5 second and sank his birdie putt and added a 12-foot birdie at the par-4 sixth to stretch his lead to three shots. The Ohio State alum squared four bogeys (one 3-putt) against six circles and was 1-over thru 12 holes, before playing his final six in blemish-free 3-under.

"It was nice to make a couple of birdies coming in, granted missed a little kick-in on 14", he said after another solid display since undergoing spinal fusion surgery a year ago.

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