Woods fading in pursuit of Masters miracle

The 15-time major champion fell 12 shots off the pace through nine holes


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Tiger Woods plays his shot from the bunker on the second hole during the third round of the Masters at Augusta on Saturday. — AFP
Tiger Woods plays his shot from the bunker on the second hole during the third round of the Masters at Augusta on Saturday. — AFP

Published: Sat 9 Apr 2022, 11:57 PM

Last updated: Sun 10 Apr 2022, 12:00 AM

Tiger Woods ran into trouble on Augusta National's famously treacherous greens on Saturday, falling 12 shots off the pace through nine holes at the Masters as leader Scottie Scheffler teed off.

The 15-time major champion, playing in his first tournament in 17 months and the first since suffering career-threatening injuries to his lower right leg in a car crash 14 months ago, three-putted from 51 feet for a bogey at the opening hole.

He bounced back with a birdie at the par-five second, nearly holing out for an eagle from the greenside bunker.

But his hard work over the first four holes was undone with a four-putt double bogey at the par-four fifth, where his three-foot bogey effort circled the cup but didn't drop.

And Woods needed another three putts from 60 feet for a bogey at the ninth.

At four-over for the tournament through nine holes, Woods had fallen a dozen shots off Scheffler's lead as the newly minted world number one opened with a par.

Woods, who feared after his crash that he might lose his right leg, had delivered a gutsy performance on Friday, flirting with his first missed cut in 22 appearances as a professional at Augusta National before rallying with a two-over 74 that left him on one-over 145.

Scheffler, meanwhile, defied the swirling winds that pushed up second-round scores to card a five-under par 67, his eight-under total of 136 putting him five shots clear of defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Ireland's Shane Lowry, South Korean Im Sung-jae and 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa going into Saturday's round.

Schwartzel and Lowry both opened with pars. Matsuyama, trying to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Woods as the only players to win back-to-back Masters, opened with a bogey while Im had a double-bogey at the first.

Dustin Johnson, whose two major titles include the 2020 Masters crown, joined the group at three-under with a birdie at the second hole.

Noting that Scheffler managed to "take care of his business" despite the demanding second-round conditions, Woods had said he would have to do the same on Saturday.

"I could have easily kicked myself out of the tournament, but I kept myself in it," Woods said.

Woods said the dry, chilly weather — it was around 50F (10C) under overcast skies when Woods teed off — would make the course firmer and faster.

He liked the idea of that challenge, but has said that cold weather is harder on his surgically repaired back.

A litany of injuries has been the backdrop to the stunning career that has made Woods a sensation beyond the golf and sports world.

His fifth Masters title in 2019 capped an unlikely comeback from spinal fusion surgery that could have ended his career.

Now he's seeking an even more improbable return.

"Well, I don't feel as good as I would like to feel," Woods said with a rueful laugh after the second round. "That's OK. I've got a chance going into the weekend."

Chasing Scheffler

The conditions, however, will make it hard for all those chasing Scheffler, the hottest player on the planet after nabbing his first US PGA Tour title at the Phoenix Open in February.

Victories followed at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC Match Play to see Scheffler supplant Jon Rahm atop the world rankings.

Now he has the lead in a major championship for the first time.

Scheffler, who came from off the pace in his two stroke-play tournament victories, insisted his commanding lead was not a source of pressure.

"If anything, it gives me more confidence," said Scheffler. "As long as I'm committed to everything, everything should be fine. The rest really isn't up to me."

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