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Tiger is on the prowl as thrilled Molinari decides to rest up after getting into mix

No bother: Tiger Woods plays out of a bunker on the second at Augusta
No bother: Tiger Woods plays out of a bunker on the second at Augusta
Francesco Molinari

By Phil Casey

Francesco Molinari had to wear a white boilersuit on his first visit to the Masters but he heads into the weekend at Augusta National in prime position to claim a coveted Green Jacket.

The Italian added a second round of 67 to his opening 70 to share the early clubhouse lead with Australia's Jason Day on seven-under par, with former World No.1 Dustin Johnson a shot behind and England's Ian Poulter another stroke back following a 71.

But as the evening unfolded, some big hitters came to the party including Tiger Woods who moved to five-under through 14 holes.

And Aussie Adam Scott briefly stormed out in front on eight-under through 15 holes.

Brooks Koepka was also on seven-under after his second round with Johnson a shot behind along with Justin Harding.

Woods brought the crowd to their feet with the first birdie of the day on the daunting 11th to reach four-under and hit a superb tee shot to five feet on the 12th.

However, with a thunderstorm approaching, the siren then sounded to suspend play, with the players held in place on the course.

Rory McIlroy's hopes of victory to secure the career Grand Slam received a huge boost when he eagled the eighth to move to one-under.

Through 12 holes, the Holywood ace was one-under for his round and level par for the tournament - still in a fight to make sure he made the cut.

Molinari's first experience of Augusta National was as a caddie for his brother in 2006 after Edoardo qualified by virtue of winning the US Amateur title the year before.

"I didn't learn much about the course because we were going sideways most of the time," Molinari joked in reference to Edoardo shooting rounds of 80 and 77 to comfortably miss the cut.

Molinari made his debut as a player in 2010 and recorded his best finish to date with a tie for 19th in 2012, but came into the event on the back of a stellar 12 months.

The 36-year-old has won four times since last year's Masters, including the Open Championship at Carnoustie, while he also became the first European player to earn a perfect 5-0 record in the Ryder Cup in Paris.

Beginning the day four shots off the lead, Molinari birdied the third, eighth and ninth to reach the turn in 33 and picked up further shots on the 12th and 15th before a superb two-putt from 75 feet for par on the last.

"It was good, pretty solid, not many mistakes and when I missed greens I missed them on the good side, leaving myself pretty easy up and downs," Molinari said.

"Now I'm just going to rest. The game is in good shape so I don't think I can gain much from hitting balls. Just get as much energy as possible for the weekend. There's going to be a lot of players in the mix and a very long way to go."

Day had needed on-course treatment for a back injury during the first round, but completed an opening 70 and matched Molinari's 67 yesterday thanks to six birdies and a solitary bogey.

Poulter enjoyed a massive slice of luck when his approach to the 13th stuck in the bank of Rae's Creek and allowed him to chip and putt for an unlikely birdie, but added: "I'm a little frustrated with a couple of missed opportunities towards the end.

"But it's on the board and I am in position and it's going to be a good weekend. There's a long way to go and if you put yourself in position with nine to go the course opens up. As long as I am there or thereabouts and try to be aggressive who knows what can happen."

Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for Matt Fitzpatrick as he produced a brilliant second round to make a fourth straight halfway cut at the Masters.

Fitzpatrick, who finished in a tie for seventh at Augusta when fellow Sheffield native Danny Willett won the title in 2016, looked set for an early exit after an opening 78, but followed that with a five-under-par 67 to finish one-over.

The 24-year-old former US Amateur champion was level par for the day after 11 holes but then birdied the 12th, made an eagle on the 13th and also birdied the 15th and 16th to come home in 32.

"I just hit more fairways," Fitzpatrick explained. "Yesterday I struggled off the tee, didn't hit it in play at all. I fixed that on the range in the evening and came out today, hit a lot more fairways, gave myself a lot more chances with my irons and took advantage of that.

"The eagle on 13 was needed, the round was just ticking over. Birdied 12 and then got lucky off the tee on 13, pulled it and went through the trees. Left me a six iron and managed to give myself a good eagle chance to 12 feet and made it.

"Conditions definitely helped today. First few holes were very soft and particularly going into the back nine, those par-fives that are reachable, it makes it a lot easier to be more aggressive and take your chances."

Meanwhile, former champion Ian Woosnam has called time on his playing career at the Masters for the second time.

Woosnam, who won back in 1991 , carded rounds of 80 and 76 to finish 12-over par and miss the cut for the 17th time in his last 18 appearances at Augusta.

The 61-year-old suffers from ankylosing spondylitis and had previously retired from playing at Augusta in 2016 before being persuaded to change his mind by his wife Glendryth.

"It's a shame because I feel like I'm still playing pretty good, but when you're walking all the way around here with a bad back it takes the energy out of you," Woosnam said.

The former Ryder Cup captain admitted he got a "telling off" from his wife three years ago, adding: "I decided to come and play a couple more times."

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