AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods was asked in his post-round press conference Friday if he liked being in contention halfway through the Masters. Considering what’s transpired since his transgressions became public, it was an easy question to answer.
He laughed before simply saying, “Yeah, I do.”
Being on a Masters leaderboard is apparently preferable to being in exile.
Woods shot 70 in the second round of the Masters. His 6-under 138 total had him in a five-way tie for third. It’s his third-best opening 36 holes in 16 Masters starts. He opened with 136 in 1997 and 2001.
“It feels good. It feels really good,” Woods said. “I usually put myself in contention … here, and this year I’m right there. You know, we’ve got 36 more holes and I’m sure the golf course, they are not going to make it easy for us. They made it easy on the first day for us and today was certainly much more difficult.”
Woods received a warm reception from the patrons Friday, but it was less spirited than the previous day’s greeting. The novelty is slowly wearing off. The public seems squarely focused on his golf.
Unpredictable breezes and difficult hole locations also kept crowds quiet. Friday lacked the low scores and lovable storylines that were commonplace in the first round. Fred Couples bogeyed his final three holes and shot 75. Tom Watson also was over par. Ian Poulter’s 68 that propelled him into a tie for the lead was an anomaly, not the norm.
That’s why Woods was pleased with his round Friday, even though it was two shots higher than his first round.
“I felt more comfortable because I was hitting the ball better and I was putting better, even though I didn’t shoot as low a score,” Woods said. “I think that’s a factor of the conditions. But I played – I feel like I have more control of the golf ball today from tee-to-green and I hit putts right on my lines. That’s something I wasn’t doing yesterday.”
Woods hit 12 of 18 greens Friday, two fewer than the first round. He hit 11 of 14 fairways, two more than the previous day.
He shot even par on a first nine that was lacking of realistic birdie opportunities. His only birdie came on the par-5 second, where he hit his second shot with an iron to the back fringe and two-putted. Woods, who hit just five greens on the first nine, only had one other birdie opportunity within 20 feet on that nine. He missed a putt of that length on the short par-4 third.
On the second nine, Woods had seven pars and made birdies on the two par 5s. The birdies did not come as easily as one would expect on those short par 5s.
Woods had 218 yards to the front of the green on No. 13, but layed up because of swirling winds. He left himself 61 yards, but he was too cautious on the third shot, leaving himself 25 feet for birdie. He made that putt.
Woods was greenside in two shots on No. 15, but hit a poor chip to 25 feet. He made that putt for a 4 that was almost as unlikely as his position on the leaderboard.
“I was a bit surprised,” playing partner Matt Kuchar said about Woods’ play, “but to be surprised by a guy who won a U.S. Open on one leg … you kind of stop being a little bit surprised.”