The 85th Masters, like so many before it, did not start until the back nine on a drama-packed Sunday where the players were racing against Mother Nature.
Mother Nature turned out to be a golf fan as the expected storms did not interfere with the final round, which got underway at the early hour of 7:45 a.m.
Overnight leader Francesco Molinari proved a scrambling machine on the front nine, he managed to make the turn in even par and saw his lead cut to a shot by Tiger Woods. That lead went back to two shots when Woods bogeyed the 10th after a poor drive left him blocked out by a big magnolia tree in the right rough.
Molinari, who out-dueled Woods head-to-head to win the 2017 Open Championship at Carnoustie, met his Waterloo at the infamous 12th hole. He made the mistake of going after the flag, tucked on the far right of the green. He didn’t catch enough of his tee shot, it landed short on the bank and made the painful roll back into Rae’s Creek. He’d walk off with double but it wouldn’t be his last. After a birdie at 13 to match Woods and a par at 14, Molinari blew his tee shot right at 15. Needing birdie, he was forced to lay up and made a poor effort. He left himself too far left on a pedestrian area that was covered with green sand. From there he chunked his third into the middle of the pond, ending his hopes and giving Woods another big boost that would carry him to his 15th major championship and 81st win.
It might not be too far off base to say Molinari choked. It sure looked like he did. He failed to produce when Woods applied the pressure, as so many players have in the past during Woods’ prime.
“It was a tough day,” Molinari said after his 74 left him tied for fifth at 11-under par. “I lost focus a little on the back nine,” Molinari admitted.
“Twelve — just a bad swing. Fifteen — I made a mess of that hole. It is what it is,” he lamented.
Molinari couldn’t help but notice how the Masters patrons got behind Woods. “The energy out there was brilliant, the people were loving it,” Molinari pointed out.
And what of the experience?
“I’ll learn a lot from today.”