On Saturday, Tiger Woods struggled on Augusta National’s notoriously tricky greens, falling 12 strokes behind leader Scottie Scheffler after nine holes at the Masters.
The 15-time major champion three-putted from 51 feet for bogey on the first hole, his first competition in 17 months, and his first since sustaining career-threatening injuries to his lower right leg in a vehicle accident 14 months ago.
He responded with a birdie on the par-five second, almost holing out for an eagle from the greenside bunker.
His excellent work over the first four holes was undone by a four-putt double-bogey at the par-four fifth when his three-foot bogey attempt rimmed the cup but didn’t drop.
Woods required three more putts from 60 feet for a bogey at the ninth.
After the first nine holes, Woods was a dozen shots behind Scheffler, as the newly minted world number one opened with a par.
Woods, who had feared losing his right leg following his incident, had put forth a valiant effort on Friday, flirting with his first missed cut in 22 professional appearances at Augusta National before responding with a two-over 74 to finish one-over 145.
Meanwhile, Scheffler battled the swirling winds that pushed up second-round scores to card a five-under-par 67, putting him five shots ahead of defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, South Korean I’m Sung-Jae and 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa heading into Saturday’s round.
Both Schwartzel and Lowry got off to a good start with pars. Matsuyama, who was attempting to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, and Woods as the only players to win back-to-back Masters, started with a bogey, while I had a double-bogey.
With a birdie on the second hole, Dustin Johnson, who has two major victories, including the 2020 Masters, entered the group at three-under.
Woods had noted that despite the problematic second-round conditions, Scheffler was able to “take care of his business” and that he would have to do the same on Saturday.
“I could have easily dropped out of the tournament,” Woods said, “but I kept myself in it.”
Woods predicted that the dry, cool weather, at 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) under gloomy skies as he teed off, would make the course harder and faster.
Although he likes the notion of the challenge, he has stated that cold temperatures are more demanding on his surgically repaired back.
The spectacular career that has made Woods a sensation beyond the golf and sports world has been marred by many ailments.
In 2019, he won his fifth Masters’s championship, capping an extraordinary comeback from spinal fusion surgery that threatened to terminate his career.
He’s now looking for an even more implausible reward.
“Well, I don’t feel as good as I’d want to feel,” Woods admitted after the second round with a rueful laugh. “That’s OK. Going into the weekend, I’ve got a chance.”
– Scheffler’s Pursuit –
On the other hand, the conditions will make it difficult for those pursuing Scheffler, the world’s hottest player, after winning his maiden US PGA Tour title at the Phoenix Open in February.
Scheffler surpassed Jon Rahm at the top of the world rankings after victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC Match Play.
For the first time in his career, he is leading a significant title.
Scheffler stated that his commanding lead was not a source of pressure despite coming from behind in both of his stroke-play tournament victories.
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“If anything, it boosts my confidence,” Scheffler said. “Everything should be alright as long as I’m committed to everything. The rest is out of my hands.”