Tiger Woods acknowledges fans at the second green of Augusta National in the third round of the Masters

Augusta (United States) (AFP) - Tiger Woods’s sedate start saw the 14-time major champion slipping back on Saturday as rain-softened Augusta National exploded with low scores.

The stage had already set for a shootout with five current or former major champions – Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen – sharing the halfway lead at seven-under par.

No sooner had the final group of Molinari and Day teed off than they were two shots back as Tony Finau, who started the day four off the pace, eagled the par-five eighth to move to nine-under for the tournament.

Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, opened with a birdie to move to eight-under, where he was joined by South African Justin Harding and American Xander Schauffele – who both started the day six-under.

That’s where Woods began the day and that’s where he remained after four straight pars.

Woods, who won the most recent of his four Masters titles back in 2005 and his last major at the 2008 US Open, thrilled the galleries with his push toward the top on Friday, with four birdies in his last 10 holes.

But he was going to have to pick up the pace.

American Patrick Cantlay showed just what was possible. After starting the day two-over he was in the clubhosue on six-uner 210 after a bogey-free eight-under par 64.

Surging: American Tony Finau on the way to the early third-round lead in the Masters at Augusta National

Finau raced up the leaderboard with birdies at the first three holes and seized the lead with a birdie at the sixth followed by his eagle at eight – where his second shot left him a tap-in.

Finau needed just 11 putts to complete his first nine in a record-equalling six-under 30 on the front side.

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who started the day three shots off the pace, moved to six-under with back-to-back birdies at the second and third before giving a shot back with a bogey at the par-four fifth.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who started the day seven adrift in his pursuit of a breakthrough Masters win, was going the wrong way on moving day until an eagle at the par-five 15th, followed by a birdie at 16.

The respite proved brief, as McIlroy closed with his fifth bogey of the day in a 71 that left him one-over for the tournament and a long way away from the green jacket that would give him a career Grand Slam.