Ancer, Molinari in lead; Woods stalls


Armour, Blair are two strokes back

Associated Press

POTOMAC, Md.

The cheers were so loud for Tiger Woods that no one could hear the starter announce the name of Joel Dahmen when it was his turn to hit.

And then it got even rowdier Saturday at the Quicken Loans National with each putt Woods made — 12 feet for par, four in a row for birdie, a 25-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole to head to the back nine just two shots out of the lead.

Abraham Ancer heard it all in the group ahead, and it carried him into a share of the 54-hole lead.

Woods couldn’t keep up.

Ancer had the lowest round of his PGA Tour career, an 8-under 62 on the TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, and wound up atop the leaderboard with Francesco Molinari (65).

“The crowds were absolutely amazing. Every hole was packed,” Ancer said. “I just drew on that. I just heard all the roars. He was making a lot of putts on the front nine. The roars were crazy. I just wanted to be one step ahead of him. So it worked out.”

It worked out even better than that.

Ancer, a 27-year-old Mexican, had never been among the top 10 going into the final round in his previous two starts. Now he’s one round away from his first PGA Tour victory, which is a lot longer than it looks. Molinari, a two-time Ryder Cup player with a World Golf Championship among his credentials, overcame a few putts he missed from short range to close with two birdies to join Ancer at 13-under 197.

Ryan Armour (68) and Zac Blair (66) were two shots behind.

Woods lost all momentum on the back nine by missing two birdie chances inside 10 feet, taking a bogey on a short par 4 and then driving just through the green on the reachable 14th to 18 feet, chipping strong to 8 feet and missing another birdie chance.

He had to settle for a 68 and was six shots behind, making this the seventh straight tournament he has been at least five shots behind going into the final round.

It sure didn’t sound that way, and for most of the round, it didn’t look that way.

“It was frustrating because I played better than what my score indicates,” Woods said. “I thought that 10 under would have been a good score for me to end up at for the day, and I could have easily gotten that today on the back nine.”

The nine players ahead of him have combined for just five (official) PGA Tour victories. That includes Molinari, a five-time winner in Europe who is No. 17 in the world. He won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in 2010, before the PGA Tour recognized it as an official victory.

The Italian is playing at the National and plans to be at the John Deere Classic in two weeks, even though the European Tour is in the meat of its summer schedule with national opens in France, Ireland and Scotland leading up to the British Open. Molinaro is among qualifiers for the Ryder Cup team, but his FedEx Cup standing is at No. 123.

He’s making the most of his first trip to the TPC Potomac. Even though he missed a few short putts on the front nine, he closed with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th and hit wedge into 5 feet for birdie at the 18th.

“It’s where I want to be,” Molinari said, referring more to his position on the leaderboard than in heat approaching 100 degrees.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.