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Saturday April 20th, 2019 4:37AM

Steady for so long, Molinari's wet miscues cost him Masters

By The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Francesco Molinari was gracious in defeat, despite losing control of the Masters following a wet and disappointing back nine.

Just two bad shots, that's all it took. Two splashdowns in the water and two double bogeys Sunday left him watching Tiger Woods celebrate capturing another green jacket.

But Molinari was anything but petulant following the stinging setback. He acknowledged that watching Woods make history was special. Despite blowing a three-shot lead during the final round, he could appreciate the roars from the crowd and the electric atmosphere at Augusta National.

However, he stopped short of saying he turned into a fan for a moment on the 18th green when Woods won.

"No," he said before breaking into a small grin. "Sorry."

After playing rock-solid golf for 3½ rounds, Molinari flinched and errors opened the door for Woods — and others. Molinari hit his tee shot into the water at No. 12 and his third shot on No. 15 ended up wet as well.

The 36-year-old Italian went 49 straight holes without a bogey at one point during the tournament. But a couple of bad swings erased all that good work in a hurry.

"From my point of view, it's just a step along the way," Molinari said. "I think it wasn't my day today. That ball on 12, if it is one yard further left it goes in the bunker (instead of the water). The third shot on 15, it could easily have not clipped the tree.

"Sometimes it's your day. Sometimes it isn't."

Molinari said he hit an 8-iron on the decisive 12th hole. Last year's British Open champion said the wind was difficult to judge on Sunday and he didn't always have the control he wanted.

"We picked the right shot." Molinari said. "I just didn't hit it hard enough. Simple as that. It was tough today with the wind gusting. I managed to scramble well on the front nine. I just had a couple mental lapses on the back nine that were costly.

"But it is what it is."

It looked like Molinari might run away with his second major in two years during the first part of the round. He made six straight pars as others faltered. When he walked to the No. 7 tee box, he had a three-shot lead, looking unfazed by what was happening around him.

He made bogey on No. 7 to end his par-or-better streak at 49 holes, but recovered with a birdie on No. 8. At the turn, he was still two shots ahead.

But the first double bogey on 12 dropped him into a tie for the lead. The second on 15 sent him tumbling out of contention.

"You cannot open the door to those kids of great players," Molinari's caddie Pello Iguaran said. "So you see what happens."

By the time 18 approached, the roars from the crowd had turned toward Tiger. The opportunity for his second major title had disappeared.

"I'm really happy of the way I felt out there," Molinari said. "I was calm, collected, never panicked — even after the first double bogey. I learned a lot of things today.

"I did a few things I wish I had done differently now, but I learn from my mistakes."

___

For more AP golf coverage: https://apnews.com/apf-Golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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