Molinari's Tiger-slayer rep will be put to the test Sunday at Augusta

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Beat Tiger Woods once, and you’ve got a story for the ages. Beat him four times in a row? That’s the stuff of legends.

Francesco Molinari finished Saturday’s third round at the Masters with a 66, his 13-under score leading the field for the second day in a row. That set him up for a Sunday morning grouping with none other than Woods, the guy whom Molinari has absolutely owned over the last year.

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In last year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie, Molinari did what only one other player has ever done: catch and pass Woods for the win on a major championship Sunday. He followed that up three months later by pasting Woods on three separate occasions in the Ryder Cup. Teamed with Tommy Fleetwood, Molinari beat Woods no matter whether he was paired with Patrick Reed (3&1, 4&3) or Bryson DeChambeau (5&4).

You don’t often punch Tiger Woods in the mouth that many times in a row. It’s a pretty good bet Woods hasn’t forgotten. Even so, Molinari isn’t relying on past victories over Woods as any kind of crutch.

“I think how I hit the ball will help my comfort more than thinking about Carnoustie,” Molinari said. “I don’t think I’ll be thinking about Carnoustie a lot [Sunday].”

Sunday won’t be the first time Woods and Molinari have met at the first tee of Augusta National. Back in 2006, Woods was coming off his fourth — and, to date, last — Masters win, and Molinari was caddying for his brother Eduardo, at that time an amateur champion.

Tiger Woods and amateur <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/pga/players/2288/" data-ylk="slk:Edoardo Molinari">Edoardo Molinari</a> (L) of Italy with brother and caddie Francesco Molinari (C) on the fourth tee during the second round of The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2006 in Augusta, Georgia. (Getty Images)
Tiger Woods and amateur Edoardo Molinari (L) of Italy with brother and caddie Francesco Molinari (C) on the fourth tee during the second round of The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2006 in Augusta, Georgia. (Getty Images)

“Great experience,” he recalled Friday. “I didn't learn a lot, to be honest, about the course, because we were going sideways most of the time. But yeah, it's not great fun to caddie around here, I can tell you that.”

Calling Molinari stoic is underselling it; he makes rocks look jittery. And that’s exactly the kind of demeanor that’s going to serve him well on Sunday, where he’ll be playing a road game against the legions of patrons pulling for Tiger.

"He's one of those sporting icons that you don't need to be American to appreciate what he's done and what he does, the way he plays. But obviously [Sunday], you know, I have to compete against him,” Molinari said. “I’m sorry I'm not going to say anything exciting, but just do my best, and shot by shot, see what I can do, and we'll do the sums at the end of the day and see who shot a better score.”

Easy enough, right? He’s done it before.

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