Molinari issues statement of his own - I’m still here

One by one they were replaced – until none remained atop the leaderboard.

There were five highly decorated leaders after the second round of the Masters with Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen all 7-under par.

However, by midday of the third round Saturday they were replaced by the likes of Tony Finau, Webb Simpson and Xander Schauffele.

The changing of the guard would not last.

Molinari had key par saves on Nos. 4 and 5 followed by birdies at Nos. 6 and 8. He stood at 9-under par and pulled himself close to the leaders, letting them know he would not be going anywhere.

Molinari caught fire on the back nine with four straight birdies on Nos. 12-15 to get to 13-under par for the tournament. He holds a two-stroke lead over Tiger Woods and Finau going into the final round Sunday. The three will play in the same group as tournament officials moved up tee times in an attempt to finish play before severe weather.

“My plan for (Sunday) is to do out the same but there are a few guys who would like to mess up my plans,” Molinari said.

Koepka struggled early but used an eagle at No. 15 to get to 10-under and back within striking distance. He will be in the second-to-last pairing with Ian Poulter and Simpson, both 9-under par.

“I felt like I played pretty well, but just some sloppy mistakes, a couple short missed putts, but overall played well,” Koepka said.

As for the other three second-round leaders:

*Oosthuizen finished just 1-under par for the day and stands at 8-under.

*Scott finished even par for the day and stands at 7-under.

*Day struggled and finished 1-over par and stands at 6-under.

Molinari has made it around Augusta National with rounds of 70, 67 and 66. He has just one bogey for the week. It came on No. 11 in the opening round on Thursday. Molinari saved par from the bunker at No. 18 Saturday to keep the streak going.

In his previous seven Masters as a player, Molinari has never finished better than a tie for 19th, including two missed cuts.

Molinari got his first look at Augusta National as the caddie for his brother, Edoardo, the U.S. Amateur winner, in 2006. They were in the same group as Woods, who had won the 2005 Masters.

Molinari and Woods were together in the final pairing when Molinari won his major at the 2018 British Open.

He offered no secrets on how to beat Woods again.

“I think, to be honest, every tournament is different, and every time is a different story,” Molinari said. “He obviously loves this place, and he's playing great golf. So I'm aware that it's not going to be easy tomorrow, and you know, like I said, I can just do my best. But it's not like I can only worry about him. There's a lot of guys I think in with a chance.”