Tiger Woods on to the weekend but out of contention at the Masters

Apr 6, 2018; Augusta, GA, USA; Tiger Woods takes a drop on the 12th hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods on to the weekend but out of contention at the Masters

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods on to the weekend but out of contention at the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Everyone was thinking it, and at least one person said it when Tiger Woods approached the first tee box at Augusta National to begin his second round at the Masters.

“I think he’s smelling blood in the water.”

Overnight leader Jordan Spieth had played the first two holes at 3 over, which meant Woods was just four strokes off the lead after a 1-over 73 in Round 1.

Woods tried to play it safe with a 3-wood off the first tee on Thursday and still hit a hook well left into the pine straw. Friday he pulled driver and cranked it 340 yards, leaving just 93 yards into one of the toughest opening holes players will see all year.

There was a childlike sense of anticipation around the clubhouse and Woods looked ready to make his move.

Not 20 minutes later, down around the second green, the discussion among fans had changed.

Someone had quietly relayed a message to his friend on the ropes.

“He bogeyed it? Are you kidding me?”

It seemed clear at that point that Woods was in for another 18-hole grind. His wedge shot at No. 1 went long and left of the green, and his chip was well short and hung up on the fringe. He two-putted from 18 feet for an opening bogey, moving to 2 over on the week.

“I’m right in between 56 or 60 (degree wedge),” Woods said of his approach on one. “Thinking, OK, if I draw the 60 I should hold it on the slit. If 56, I’m playing towards the center because I’m cutting and spinning off the slope. A little 60. Next I’m in the gallery. That wasn’t exactly a great start.”

He shot 3-over 75 Friday to make the cut, albeit at 13 shots behind outright leader Patrick Reed.

The par-3 fourth hole again showed that Woods just didn’t have good command of his iron yardages early this week. That’s tough on everyone at Augusta, especially when the wind was whipping as hard as it was at times Friday. His tee shot was on line with the pin Thursday and came up short in the bunker. Friday he was on a good line again but went way long, his ball finally coming to rest on the fifth tee box.

Woods hit a great recovery chip and escaped with a par, but the good vibes didn’t last long. His tee shot at the par-4 fifth was well right but still playable. Then he hit his most damaging shot of the afternoon long and left of the green, into the trees and unplayable.

“I hit a crap shot,” Woods said. “It was a bad shot. It was like the (chip) shot I hit at one. Same shot with a longer club.”

He made double bogey from there, and any hopes of a Friday charge were over.

“I hit my irons awful today,” Woods said. “I didn’t control my distance, my shape, spins. I left myself in bad spots. … And (hit) a lot of beautiful putts and didn’t make anything.”

He parred the next six holes, getting out of trouble after a bad tee shot at 11 with an incredible recovery shot, his best of the day. 

He narrowly missed a birdie putt and moved on to the par-3 12th, the scariest place on property when you’re not confident with your yardages or what the wind is doing.

“Oh no,” said a man in the second-to-last row of the Amen Corner bleachers,  shortly after Woods’ tee shot was in the air. It was well short and rolled back into Rae’s Creek.

Woods moved off the tee and stood off to the side, one arm resting on his hip. He stared down at the ground for a second, then removed his hat and scratched his head.

For the second straight day, Woods headed to the drop zone area where Jordan Spieth lost the 2016 Masters in unbelievable fashion. One of his best shots of the day followed, and he tapped in for bogey to move to 5 over.

Woods was suddenly in danger of missing the cut, but a huge tee shot at the par-5 13th led to his first birdie of the day. It was also his first birdie on the par 5s this week, which explains why he won’t be in the discussion of potential green-jacket recipients come Sunday.

The grounds were noticeably emptier than they were at this point in his round Thursday. It may come as a shock to perennial ticket lottery losers, but some spectators voluntarily leave Augusta before security physically removes them.

The area surrounding the 13th fairway wouldn’t have included any elbow room if Woods were in contention, but that’s how things go sometimes.

Woods showed plenty of heart with the way he competed down the stretch Thursday and Friday. He made some key birdies and stayed totally invested in every shot. That’s why he’ll be here for the weekend.

Tough as he was mentally, Woods just didn’t have it in Rounds 1 and 2. He wasn’t nearly as sharp as he was during a stretch of three straight top-12 finishes at the Honda Classic, Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational.

He’ll be here early Saturday morning for one of the first tee times in Round 3, out of contention but still on the grounds. This won’t be his year at the Masters. This is also when it’s important to step back and remember that not long ago we wondered if he would ever play again.

“Forget playing at the Tour level. I didn’t know if I’d ever be playing again,” Woods said. “But it’s incredible to have the opportunity again, to still come out here and play this golf course. Now I know I’m on to the weekend. Even though I’m a lot behind, if I play a special weekend, shoot two rounds in the mid 60s, you never know.”

We haven’t seen much this week to suggest two rounds like that are on deck. The good news? All signs point to Woods coming back in 2019, this time after a full season with the new swing and ready to take another shot at the green jacket.

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