Several had a chance, but none could catch Tiger
AUGUSTA — This time, Francesco Molinari flinched.
Heading into the final round, the Italian had a two shot lead on Tiger Woods and Tony Finau. Instead of a showing similar to the one last year at Carnoustie, where he went bogey free during a Sunday pairing with Woods to win the British Open, he faded late.
He was is usual steady self on the front nine. His back nine was where things came undone.
Of course Woods took advantage the most, but previous major champions Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka were also waiting in the wings. So too was Xander Schauffele - the 25-year-old, 10th-ranked golfer in the world.
They each got to 12 under, but it just wasn’t enough.
Schauffele was the first to get there with a birdie on 14, but he spent the rest of his round leaving himself with lengthy birdie putts and settling for par.
Schauffele, who was playing in his second Masters, was happy with his effort. He turned in a 68 in the final round.
“I think this situation is very unique. I’m not one bit sad,” Schauffele said. “I told my caddie on the last hole that we just proved to ourselves that we can win on this property. I started with a 73, so I was very behind the 8‑ball and clawed my way back.”
Koepka, who held a share of the lead after the first and second round, was the last who could apply pressure to Woods, but his birdie putt on the 18th went left and he settled for a 70 to finish at 12 under.
Koepka made a double bogey on 12 after putting his first shot in the water. He recovered immediately with an eagle on No. 13 and made birdie on No. 15.
The missed birdie on 18 and a missed eagle putt on 15 were magnified after Woods made bogey on 18.
“Yeah, I thought I hit a good putt (on 18). Poults’ (Ian Poulter’s) putt fooled me. You saw Tiger’s do the same thing; it hung out there,” Koepka said. ”... I thought I hit a good one there. I thought I hit a good one on 17. Seventeen is a tricky hole. Almost seems like it wants to go up the hill there. The one on 15, I really thought I made.”
When Dustin Johnson arrived to the party at 12 under, he created a quintet of leaders. Of course, that also coincided with Woods making his move.
Johnson gave himself a shot by going 4 under over the final six holes. He matched Schauffele’s 68.
“Yeah, I mean there’s holes where you can make a move, and I knew that if I wanted to do that I needed to play 13 through 18 well,” Johnson said. “And I feel like if you give yourself some looks on 10, 11 and 12, you’re happy, but you’ll take pars on those three holes every time you tee it up. Yeah, I felt like I put myself in a good spot and I had some looks at it and I did put a good back nine together, just it wasn’t quite good enough.”
As for Molinari, he’ll have to wait for a shot at his first green jacket.
In addition a double bogey on 12, he also made double bogey on No. 15.
“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,” he said. “But it is what it is.”