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AP
Tony Finau hits from a bunker on the second hole during the third round for the Masters golf tournament Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — After posting rounds of 71 and 70 the first two days at the Masters, Tony Finau told the lone reporter who wanted to talk to him after Friday’s round that he thought he had a “65 or 66” in him for the weekend.

Turns out the was off by just a little.

The Salt Lake native and Lehi resident posted a tidy little 8-under-par 64 Saturday, missing the Augusta National course record by one shot, and finds himself in a tie for second place heading into Sunday’s final round, which will be moved up several hours because of impending thunderstorms forecast for Sunday afternoon.

That splendid round brought Finau into the fancy interview room at the Masters Press Building where dozens of media members asked about his day.

“Going into today I felt calm and comfortable and I think my score showed that,” said Finau. “I’m driving the ball nicely and on this golf course, I can attack it if I’m hitting my driver well and I have been thus far.”

Finau will tee off with leader Francesco Molinari of Italy, who stands at 203, and Tiger Woods, who is tied with Finau for second at 205, in the final threesome Sunday at 9:20 a.m. local time. Masters officials made the decision to move up the tee times by some five hours because of the weather forecast, with golfers going off in threesomes off both nines beginning at 7:30 a.m. local time.

Chris Carlson
Tony Finau reacts after finishing on the 18th hole during the third round for the Masters golf tournament Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

For much of Saturday’s round, Finau found himself atop the Masters leaderboard after a red-hot start that tied the Augusta National front-nine course record of 30. It took a strong back nine by Molinari, the reigning British Open champion, to move Finau out of the top spot heading into Sunday.

Finau had played steady the first two rounds when he made a lot of pars but only six birdies. He said he hadn’t put together any great stretches and said he expected to on the weekend if he wanted to move into contention.

He got going right off the bat with a nice birdie putt at No. 1 and followed it with tap-ins for birdies at the par-5 No. 2 and the short par-3, which he nearly drove. At No. 6 he added another birdie with a 12-footer, which moved him into a tie for the lead with the five golfers who shared the second-round lead and were just getting started behind him.

Then Finau made the shot of the tournament for him at the par-5 8th when he hit a 4-iron from 260 yards that rolled up to within a foot of the hole for a tap-in eagle.

“I didn’t hear any roars or anything, but as I walked up I saw Rickie (Fowler) coming down 9 and he’s giving me a thumb’s up. And I’m like ‘not bad, huh’ and he said, ‘yeah, well you could have made it.’”

That put Finau at 6-under par for the day and he had a chance to break the Augusta front nine record with a birdie at No. 9, but his 10-footer slid by.

On the back nine, Finau only made two birdies, at the par-5 13th and 15th holes, but didn’t make any bogeys. At 13, he had hit in on the left bunker and had to sink a 12-footer for his birdie.

“That up-and-down at 13 was pretty special. Hit a great bunker shot and dripped that in,” he said.

On each of the last three holes, Finau left himself with long birdie tries, but putted each of them into gimme range.

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Finau said he hopes to build off last year’s experience at the U.S. Open when he played in the final group and went into the final round in a four-way tie for the lead. He’s also prepared for weather that may not be ideal like most of the past three days.

“Hopefully with the tee times moving up, we’re able to play some clean golf so that weather doesn’t play too much of a factor,” he said. “If it starts to blow, starts to rain, the golf course is an animal to play when it’s tough conditions. But I’m going to have to have my best stuff no matter what.”

Charlie Riedel
Tony Finau hits from a bunker on the second hole during the third round for the Masters golf tournament Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)