AUGUSTA, Ga. — Francesco Molinari first met Tiger Woods at the 2006 Masters. Thirteen years later he’ll be playing in the same final grouping with him, this time leading the tournament. And this time, not touting a caddie jumpsuit and bag.
Molinari caddied for his younger brother, Edoardo, at Augusta National Golf Club more than a decade ago. Edoardo won the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion to earn his spot in the Masters field, and he and brother Frankie were paired with Woods for the first two rounds.
Woods was Francesco Molinari’s idol.
“To be there at Augusta [in 2006], to see him play from five yards away, was incredible,” Molinari told GOLF.com’s Michael Bamberger. “The week before my brother won the U.S. Amateur, we never would have dreamed that a few months later we would be at Augusta National, paired with Tiger Woods. I was massively nervous, from the excitement. I was living a dream, walking the fairways of Augusta, looking at Tiger. He didn’t play particularly well, but you could see he was completely different from everyone else. It was golf on another planet.
“He introduced himself on the first tee. You laugh: ‘We know who you are.’ After that, he was focused on his golf.”
The Molinaris missed the cut that year, but Francesco won his first European Tour event a month later, capturing the Telecom Italia Open by four strokes. He’d add four more Euro Tour wins and a PGA Tour victory (The Quicken Loans National) before winning last year’s British Open in 2018, where he was also paired with Woods (but not in the final group) and closed with a 69 to win by two and beat Woods by three.
Molinari now enter’s Sunday’s final round of the Masters leading Woods and Tony Finau by two, with several others still in the hunt.
“We are definitely not going to do anything different tomorrow,” Molinari said on Saturday night. “Before the round it’s just a warm‑up, preparation for the round. It’s more physical, really, and mental than anything technical. The swing is where it is at the moment, and even if I wanted to change something, I don’t think I would be able to during the night.”
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