In less than half an hour everything changed at the Masters
AUGUSTA — It was all coasting along on the oddly-timed schedule for the Masters and it was so routine and humdrum, that if you fell asleep on the couch at, say 12:45 p.m., no one would blame you.
But if you did more than just “rest your eyes” then your eyes missed an absolute wild swing of events that provided all the drama the Masters is known for and vaulted Tiger Woods into the lead.
Francesco Molinari was holding a not comfortable, but relaxed two-shot lead after he and Tiger were practically matching each other shot-for-shot. Molinari was 13 under and Tiger was at 11 under. It was that way for two holes after Tiger bogeyed the 10th.
Molinari stepped up to the tee at No. 12, the always dangerous 12th hole. The one Jordan Spieth most recently collapsed at in 2016 when he held a lead and allowed Danny Willett to win.
His tee shot hit the slope just before the front of the green and slowly rolled backward before picking up speed and going right into the water.
“Just a bad execution,” Molinari said. “I think we picked the right shot and just didn’t hit it hard enough, as simple as that. And it was tough today with the wind gusting and I managed to scramble well on the front nine and I think I just had a couple of mental lapses on the back nine that were costly.”
Tiger was next to tee off, and he’s been in this situation before. And he knew what to do, just put the ball anywhere in play.
His shot landed perfectly over the front side bunker and well to the left of the hole.
Molinari had a double bogey that dropped him back to 11-under and in a tie for the lead with Tiger and Xander Schauffele, who had just birdied 11 and 13 to go to 11 under and was on the fairway at 14.
That three-way tie for the lead held for all of about three minutes.
Patrick Cantlay rolled in a 17-footer on 15 to grab sole possession of the lead.
And THAT lead didn’t last long as Schauffele’s approach to the pin on 14 landed just 8 feet from the cup and he made it to go to 12 under, as well.
“I knew that putt was for the lead for the moment,” Schauffele said. “Obviously the leaders were going into 13, so I knew being ahead that I – and then once I parred 15, I knew I was in a bit of trouble. But I did have my 30 seconds in the sun with the lead and it was a really cool feeling.”
And then Brooks Koepka eagled 13 and he went 11 under and would later birdie 15.
It was on 15, when Molinari put his third shot in the water again leading to another double bogey, a hole that Tiger birdied.
That switch, along with Cantlay’s back-to-back bogeys and Schauffele failing to take advantage of the forgiving 15 and 16 put Tiger in control.
Only Koepka had any chances and he failed to get a birdie on 16, 17 or 18. Despite that, Koepka summed up that wild change events perfectly.
“That was probably the coolest back nine in a major championship I’ve ever been a part of, or just in golf in general,” he said. “I think with so many guys going up and down, the lead’s kind of changing hands, depending what hole you’re on.
“I don’t know how it looked on TV, but it was amazing to be a part of.”