The Loop

Soltau: Tiger's Round Looked a Lot Worse Than the Score

April 11, 2008

AUGUSTA,  Ga. -- If you followed him Friday, and thousands of spectators did in the sun-splashed second round of the 72nd Masters Tournament, you would have thought Tiger Woods shot 75. He chunked a shot into a bunker, three-putted twice--once from the fringe--and played the usually vulnerable par 5s in only one under par.

He still shot 71.

Like most late starters, and he was second-to-last off, Woods struggled with the wind and tortoise-like pace of play. It took and playing partners Angel Cabrera and Stuart Appleby three hours to play the front nine. There were adventures, notably at the par-4 18th hole, where Woods drove into the right trees and pine straw, played his second shot up the 10th fairway, and might have holed a blind third shot if his ball hadn't bumped into the ball of playing partner Stuart Appleby. He still holed an eight-footer for par.

"It was quite a grind out there with those conditions," said Woods, who is at one-under-par 143 and tied for 13th, seven strokes behind Trevor Immelman. "It was blowing, swirling all over the place. We were backing off shot after shot. A day of patience for sure."

Although the four-time winner made an eagle Thursday, he started the second round with a string of 34 holes at Augusta without a birdie. He erased that stat quickly with a birdie at the par-4 first, guiding a 9-iron through the pine trees to 20 feet and slam-dunked the putt.

The critical point came at the par-4 11th after a three-putt bogey at No. 10. Woods missed the green right on No. 11, left his approach eight feet short, then buried a slick, downhill left-to-right putt dead-center.

"That was nice," he said. "You don't want to threeâ¿¿putt back-to-back greens. And certainly that would have put a little damper on it. Especially when I'm trying to fight to get back into the tournament, I don't want to go two over par. And I figured I had two par 5s left I could still get under par, maybe sprinkle one more in there and get right back in the tournament."

Which he did. Woods birdied 13 and 17 and remains within striking distance. Especially with rain and wind in the forecast. Especially with Masters pressure looming for the leaders. His biggest 36-hole comeback at the Masters -- Six back in 2005. The last player to rally from outside the Top 10 at the halfway mark and go on to win -- Jack Nicklaus, who was tied for 17th in 1986.

"Seven back on this golf course," said Woods, "under these conditions? I can make that up."

--Mark Soltau