There’s electricity in the air at Augusta National this weekend. And it has precious little to do with the advancing thunderstorms.
Rather, the fuse has been lit by the prospect of Tiger Woods doing something many had come to view as impossible: winning a 15th major.
For a man who once stockpiled victories in golf’s four most meaningful events with the voracity of ‘Preppers’ girding for the apocalypse, adding to his haul has, since the 2008 US Open, been akin to catching lightning in a jar for Woods.
The last time he won one of the game’s marquee events, he was 32 and formidable. He’s now a flawed, fragile 43-year-old who, over the last three days, has shown more than occasional flashes of his old brilliance.
Does he have enough left in reserve to finish the job? That’s the question.
The patrons know it. Fans watching around the world know it. And, yes, he knows it.
“I always feel pressure,” he said after carding a five-under 65 to get within two of the lead with 18 to play. “The day I don’t feel pressure is the day I quit. I always thought that if you care about something, obviously you're going to feel pressure. I've always felt it, from the first time I remember ever playing a golf tournament to now. That hasn't changed.”
And yet so much else has.
You have to go back to 2007 for the last time that Woods went out in the final group on Sunday at Augusta National, and two years further still for the most recent of his four Masters victories.
“You’re right, it's been a while since I've been in contention here,” he added. “But then again the last two majors count for something. I've been in the mix with a chance to win major championships in the last two years, so that helps.”
To what extent, we’ll find out soon enough.
Frankie: "It's going to be a battle"
The only player above Woods on the leaderboard is a familiar foe: Francesco Molinari.
The Italian has become Tiger’s own personal kryptonite in recent years.
First, he beat Woods in their ultimately decisive singles match at the 2012 Ryder Cup. Then last year happened. In June, Woods presented Molinari with the AT&T National trophy before losing out to him, less than a month later, in the 2018 Open at Carnoustie.
That’s to say nothing of the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, where three of Molinari’s five wins came at Tiger’s expense.
The unflappable 36-year-old is looking to make it two major wins in his last three starts, in itself borderline Tiger-esque.
A green jacket - giacca verde? – wouldn’t look out of place on the shoulders of the diminutive Torinese but, before the predictable presumptions that he’ll serve pizza and pasta at the Champions Dinner next year begin, there’s work to be done. All eighteen holes of it.
“It's going to be a battle,” said Molinari after carding a 66 to set the target at 13-under-par. “Anything can happen tomorrow. The plan is, hit the middle of the clubface as much as possible and find the ball and hit it again.”
Mother Nature’s interference or not, the forecast is for a thrilling finale.
Batten down the hatches, bolt the doors, and stand by for updates - Masters Sunday is coming in fast. And it looks like it'll be one for the ages.