Tiger 2 shots off Masters lead after 3rd-round 67

Tiger 2 shots behind Masters lead (2:18)

Michael Eaves and Curtis Strange take a look at Tiger Woods' 5-under-par 67 Round 3 to put him within striking distance of leader Francesco Molinari heading into Sunday. (2:18)

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Beads of sweat dripped from his face, dotting the lavender mock turtleneck he wore Saturday, a throwback to the last time Tiger Woods won the Masters and a sign of the hard work put in on another thrilling day at Augusta National.

Woods put himself in position for a chance at a 15th major championship and first at the Masters since 2005, the year the red mock turtleneck took center stage in the final round that featured his famous chip-in for birdie from behind the 16th green before he eventually won in a playoff.

It was a more conventional birdie at the same par-3 during the third round Saturday that stamped a 5-under-par 67 and put him within grasp of that elusive major, with a familiar nemesis in his path.

Francesco Molinari, European Ryder Cup hero and suddenly the world's most steely golfer, will be there alongside Woods and Tony Finau in a rare Sunday three-ball, moved up several hours to beat predicted bad weather.

"It's been a while since I've been in contention here,'' said Woods, who will begin the final round 2 strokes back of Molinari and tied with Finau at 11 under. "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.''

Woods led on the back nine at Carnoustie last summer, only to make two crucial bogeys while Molinari stayed steady, playing the final round of The Open without a bogey to hoist the Claret Jug. Woods tied for sixth.

A month later, Woods, 4 strokes back entering the final round at Bellerive, put on a Sunday charge, a final-round 64 before finishing second behind Brooks Koepka.

Molinari shot 66 on Saturday and has not made a bogey during the past two rounds, with just one for the tournament -- at the 11th hole on Thursday. 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.

All 14 of Woods' major victories have come with at least a share of the 54-hole lead, but that stat discounts the fact that several times, he trailed in a final round before rallying.

He'll need to do that Sunday on a day that is expected to be impacted by weather and wind.

"It will be interesting to see if that wind comes up like it's forecast, 15, 20 miles an hour around this golf course is going to be testy,'' Woods said. "And to be committed, hit the proper shots and then hopefully we time it right.''

Woods failed to birdie the par-5 second hole Saturday and appeared to be spinning in the Augusta sand as players such as Finau, Webb Simpson and Patrick Cantlay were having their way with the venerable course.


Tiger: I was just making sure I stayed in double digits

Tiger Woods reflects on his 3rd-round performance that put him within 2 shots of the lead heading into Sunday.

All three shot 64, one off the course record held by Nick Price and Greg Norman, and produced a Masters first: The tournament, which never before had seen more than one score of 64 or better, had three in one day.

But after a bogey at the par-4 fifth hole -- his third of the tournament, after finding a fairway bunker each time -- Woods had a quick talk with himself walking to the sixth tee.

"Just be patient,'' he said. "Very simple. The golf course is certainly gettable, a lot of scores going out there. One of the Ams (amateurs) was out there earlier (Takumi Kanaya, who shot 68). He was 4 or 5 under. Patrick (Cantlay) was going low. Tony obviously was 6 under through 8. Just be patient. Let the round build. We've got a long way to go.''

And that's exactly what happened. Woods got going with a birdie at the par-3 sixth, rolling in an 18-footer. He knocked an approach stiff at the seventh, converting from just a foot. And he finally handled the par-5 eighth, knocking his second shot on the green and giving himself an 11-footer for eagle that he missed, but still a third straight birdie.

From there, it was all pars until Woods got a break with his tee shot on the par-5 13th. It appeared he pulled it too close to the trees that line the corner, but the ball somehow got through, and came to rest in the rough. He laid up to 70 yards, then pitched close for his fourth birdie of the day.

Then at the par-5 15th, Woods knocked his second shot just over the green from 218 yards, hitting another nice pitch to set up birdie. He added his final birdie at the par-3 16th, rolling in a 7-footer that helped him finish at 205, 11 under par.

Molinari leads at 13-under 203, with Woods and Finau tied at 205. Koepka, after a 69, is 3 shots back of Molinari, with Simpson and Ian Poulter 4 shots behind.

Woods hit 16 of 18 greens for the second straight day and is tied for second in greens in regulation, always an important factor for him; in all four of his Masters victories, he ranked no worse than second.

"I just did everything,'' he said. "I drove it well and hit my irons well. I made some putts. Like I said, I just let the round just kind of build. And I don't need to go after every single flag. Just put the ball in the correct spots so I can have gettable looks and gettable putts.

"And I was able to do that and I tried to keep the ball below the hole as best as I possibly could. And I made sure that I had those type of looks, and if I gave myself those looks the way that I'm hitting my lines I'm going to be all right.''

Woods is the closest he has been to the lead in a major going into the final round since the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he was also 2 back but finished sixth.

He noted that the early start will be unusual, and while Woods is a notoriously poor sleeper, he does need extra time each day due to his back issues to prepare for a round of golf.

It won't be easy, but the challenge is something Woods relishes.

"The day I don't feel pressure is the day I quit,'' he said. "I always thought that if you care about something, obviously you're going to feel pressure. And I've always felt it, from the first time I remember ever playing a golf tournament to now. That hasn't changed.''