AUGUSTA, Georgia — If Tony Finau could tie for 10th place on a grotesquely sprained ankle in his Masters Tournament debut in 2018, what could he do with two good feet?
We’re finding out.
One year after dislocating his ankle while celebrating a hole-in-one in the Masters par-3 contest, Finau is proving just how much his power game is suited for Augusta National.
The 29-year-old Finau, who made his PGA Tour debut in 2007 at the now-defunct U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee and recorded his first top-10 finish in a major at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, showed again Saturday at Augusta National that he is truly one of the game's rapidly ascending stars.
He fired an 8-under-par 64 — one shot off the Masters record one the second-lowest scoring day in the tournament's 83-year history — and will tee off in the final group Sunday with third-round leader Francesco Molinari (66) and four-time champion Tiger Woods (67) in search of his first major. Finau, who also played in the final group Sunday at the 2018 U.S. Open, recorded top-10 finishes in three of last year's four majors, tying for 10th at The Masters, finishing fifth at the U.S. Open and tying for ninth at the Open Championship.
"I believe and I'm confident that I can win a major championship," Finau told Golf Channel. "I think belief is a huge part of it. You can have all the talent in the world and you can have all the skillsets, but if you don't believe you can get the job done, you're probably not going to do it. I believe I can win a major championship; why not (Sunday)?"
It would supreme statement of where Finau is at in his career as impressive as this Masters leaderboard has become.
Italy’s Molinari, the reigning British Open champion who won last month's Arnold Palmer Invitational, got to 13-under 203 with four straight birdies starting at No. 12 and will start the final round with a two-shot lead over Finau and Woods, who bounced back from a bogey at No. 5 with three straight birdies and then gained a share of the lead with birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 16 before Molinari went on his run. As romantic as the idea of Woods winning his fifth green jacket 14 years after his fourth might be, there are still 11 golfers within five strokes of Molinari so there remains as much uncertainty on the leaderboard entering the final round as there is in the Sunday forecast .
"Obviously, he's playing great and there are a lot of guys playing great," Molinari told CBS-TV after his round of playing with Woods, with whom he was paired last July during the final round of his march to victory at the Open Championship at Carnoustie. "I wish I had only to worry about him, but there are a few more that are going to come out (Sunday) and try to shoot a low one. We'll see what the weather does; that's going to be a big factor (Sunday).
"The course (Saturday) was very gettable. If it stays the same, someone could go out (Sunday) and shoot, 7-, 8- or 9-under and jump up the leaderboard. ... Hopefully, we can play (Sunday) and show some good golf again."
Because of the probability of severe weather Sunday afternoon, the Masters Committee made the rare decision to move up tee times for the final round. The players will go off both tees in threesomes starting at 6:30 a.m. Central Time.
CBS will go on the air at 8 a.m. Central Time and the leaders are scheduled to tee off at 8:20.
In 2007, Finau made his PGA Tour debut in Milwaukee as a 17-year-old who’d shot a 64 at Fire Ridge in Grafton in the Monday qualifier. Twelve years later, after needing seven tries to get through the PGA Tour Qualifying School, he’s two shots off the lead with a great chance to win his first major.
Finau got there Saturday by birdieing his first three holes, flirting with a 29 on the front — after an eagle 3 at No. 8, he missed a birdie try on No. 9 to turn in 6-under 30 — and didn't let his foot off the gas. He only made two more birdies (at Nos. 13 and 15, the two par-5s on the back nine), but couldn't have sounded more comfortable heading into Sunday and said it was "a dream come true" to spend it in the same group as Woods, whose victory at the 1997 Masters inspired Finau to take up the game growing up in Utah.
"It would have been nice (to make a few more birdies), but I felt like I did what I needed to do on that back nine," said Finau, who hit 12 of 14 fairways, 15 of 18 greens and made 27 putts and has now gone 27 holes without a bogey. "I didn't make a bogey, which was huge. The guys behind me had plenty of golf in front of them. I needed to try and keep my foot on the gas pedal. I was happy just to birdie the par-5s coming in."