Woods led at Carnoustie with eight holes to play before finishing sixth behind playing partner Molinari, who held his nerve to card a bogey-free 69 to become the first Italian player to win a major title.
The 36-year-old Ryder Cup star takes a two-shot lead over Woods and Tony Finau into Sunday’s final round at Augusta, with the tee times brought forward in an effort to avoid thunderstorms forecast to hit the course in late afternoon.
“I think, to be honest, every tournament is different and every time is a different story,” Molinari said after a superb third round of 66. “He (Woods) obviously loves this place and he’s playing great golf.
“So I’m aware that it’s not going to be easy and 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.
“We’ve seen in the past years that a few shots’ lead really doesn’t mean too much and we’ve seen today that you can shoot seven, eight under the way the course is playing. I think there’s a lot more guys with a chance.
“Coming from Italy, it’s exciting just to walk down Magnolia Lane. I don’t have to be in the last group on Sunday to be excited. It’s a special week. It’s always been a special week for me, even in the last few years where I didn’t play so well.
“I’ll just try to enjoy tomorrow as much as possible, and again, do my best, shot by shot, don’t get ahead of myself and see what happens.”
Tiger Woods insisted he had suffered no ill effects following a bizarre incident which threatened to derail his thrilling charge into contention at the 83rd Masters.
For the second day running, Woods pulled off a superb recovery shot from the trees on the 14th hole at Augusta National, only for a security guard to run in to try to control the crowd, slip on the wet ground and slide knee-first into Woods’s right ankle.
Woods limped away grimacing in pain but there appeared to be no lasting damage and after holing from 15 feet for birdie, the 43-year-old also converted from twice the distance on the par-five 15th.
Further good chances went begging on the 17th and 18th but a 68 left Woods just one shot off the lead shared by Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen, all current or former major champions.
Woods, who is seeking a first major since 2008 and a first Masters title since 2005, told ESPN: “Accidents happen, we move on. Other than having four knee surgeries and four back surgeries I’m great.
“It’s all good. I’ve had galleries run over me (before). When you play in front of a lot of people things happen.”
Woods needed a nerve block simply to attend the Champions Dinner at Augusta National in 2017 and flew to London the same evening to consult a specialist about his ongoing back problems.
He subsequently underwent spinal fusion surgery and returned to competition in November that year before playing a full season in 2018, culminating in his 80th PGA Tour in the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Woods also finished sixth in the Open Championship at Carnoustie and runner-up in the US PGA at Bellerive and added: “The last major championships I have been right there in the mix.
“I had the lead at the British Open in the final round, had a shot at the PGA and here I am at the Masters.”
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At the start of last week Corey Conners was not even in the Masters, but 11 days later he found himself sharing a tee with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and high on the leaderboard at Augusta National.
Conners survived a six-man play-off to qualify for the Valero Texas Open last Monday and went on to win his first PGA Tour title in San Antonio to secure the final place in the 87-man field for the year’s first major.
The 27-year-old, who carded rounds of 80 and 69 on his Masters debut as an amateur in 2015, was in the first group out on Thursday and fired an eagle and three birdies in an opening 70 to continue his remarkable run of form.
“It’s been wild, definitely unexpected but I’m playing some good golf and really excited to be here and honoured to be playing in the Masters and just trying to keep riding the good play,” Conners said.
“I had a great day out there today, a lot of fun, and hit some quality shots and was able to get a couple under par, which was very pleasing. It’s been a bit crazy the last week but everything’s been great and I’m just trying to really enjoy the experience.”
Part of the experience was being on the first tee as honorary starters Nicklaus and Player hit tee shots on the opening hole, with Conners teeing off a few minutes later alongside Andrew Landry and Adam Long.
“It was pretty cool, I was able to stand on the back of the tee and watch them tee off and really appreciate what they have done for the game of Golf and it was a really cool experience to be part of,” Conners added.
“I just tried to soak it in and really enjoy it. And then being in the first group following them, that was pretty special as well.
“My playing partners, Adam and Andrew are both good friends, so we’re very comfortable out there and we had a great time.”
Conners was one over par after 12 holes but birdied the 13th and 14th and then holed from eight feet for an eagle on the par-five 15th before three-putting the last.
“I think – everything’s still high – I’m just having a lot of positive emotions,” he added. “I didn’t really sleep much the beginning of the week, I felt energised with positive things that have happened. This is a great place to be and I’m just really enjoying it.”
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