After birdieing his first three holes, Finau seized the day at No. 8, sending a blind 261-yard second shot to within eight inches of the cup for a tap-in eagle. That was good for a two-stroke lead on the gang of five who shared the midway lead. Rickie Fowler, passing on a neighboring fairway, gave him a thumbs-up.
“Not bad, eh?” Finau yelled.
“Yeah, well,” Fowler replied, “you could have made it.”
After the turn, Finau continued to peel strokes from par even when he missed his marks. He pulled his second shot on par-5 No. 13 into a back bunker and left his explosion 11 feet shy of the cup. But his first putt found the hole on its final rotation and with the birdie, he reached 10-under and was three strokes up on the second-round leaders.
At the par-5 15th, he reached the center of the green easily in two but left his 42-foot eagle try six feet short. Again, he canned it for his last birdie of the day to maintain a two-shot edge. He had played the par-5’s at 10 under this week and one more bird would tie the course record. But he never got close enough to the remaining three pins for a legitimate try.
“I had to keep making birdies because I knew they were going to have lots of opportunities for the guys who are playing well,” said Finau, who teed off 80 minutes before the leaders and watched his lead contract. “More than anything, just keep my foot on the gas pedal and not let off. Looking at the scoreboard, I may not even be leading after today but I'm well in contention and I'm happy about that.”
Sure enough, four minutes after he finished, Molinari just missed a hole-in-one for a birdie No. 12. By the time Finau left the interview room, Molinari had leap-frogged him with three more straight birdies. Didn't really matter. Finau he still got his wish. Woods, now 43, gets a Sunday close-up with a kid, now grown to 29, he once inspired.
“Oh, man, it would be an unbelievable thing for me and something I've dreamed of for a long time,” Finau said. “As a kid, I always wanted to compete against him and have the opportunity to, you know ... I've dreamed of playing in the final group with him in a major championship and it would be quite a cool thing for me if I were to play with him (Sunday) in the final group of the Masters.
“It would be a dream come true for me.”