In the department of remarkable feats, Tiger Woods knows it. He made another one on Friday, resisting the ax of the Masters Tournament on his big return to the game.
If starting the opening round was a victory in itself on Thursday, he showed his pride on Friday.
On a windy day, the powerful gusts didn’t dash his hopes of making the final rounds. It’s another big win when you consider how far he’s come since his terrible crash in February 2021.
Gathering his strength and tugging from start to finish with the awkward Augusta National, he managed to bring home a 74 (+2) card. This performance places him tied for 19th with three golfers with a cumulative record of +1.
“I am proud of what I have accomplished. I’m proud that my whole team managed to put me in this position. We worked hard to get here without suffering a setback, especially this week,” greeted the 46-year-old golfer, sore at the end of the day.
“We continue to progress,” added the champion of the 2019 edition.
Change of direction
It wasn’t perfect, far from it, but after a bumpy start where he fielded four bogeys to his first five pennants, the Tiger pulled himself together by turning the tide. Luckily, because he was heading straight for his home in Jupiter at the end of the evening.
He is still chasing rust from his system after an absence from the aisles since November 2020. In his opinion, he could easily have shot himself in the foot and kicked himself out of the tournament. However, he resisted.
The typical swirling wind that he knows well disturbed him. He also executed bad shots and had bad luck.
“It was partly the conditions and partly my fault. I told Joey (his caddie Joe LaCava) that there were still plenty of holes to play. We had to get back to normal one way or another. Getting there, it would have been a very good comeback.
Indeed, because the five-time winner of the green jacket flirted with the ax for a long time which finally fell to +4, winning the Spieth, Schauffele, Koepka, DeChambeau and Rose.
Birdies at 8th, 10th, 13th and 14th put him back in the game despite a short slump at the 11th and 12th flags where he recorded bogeys.
Woods could well have accomplished his mission to return to par if he had not missed an opportunity on the par 5 of the 15th where he reached the green on the second shot. An overly aggressive pennant approach prevented him from amassing another sparrow.
And after a pinpoint hit on the par-3 on the 16th, he missed a six-foot putt.
“I really should have succeeded in this roll, cursed the golfer after his round. Otherwise, it was a good fight. I’m back in the race. That’s what was needed. But Scottie (Scheffler) stands out from the peloton.
Indeed, with a five-shot priority after 36 holes, Scheffler joined Jack Nicklaus (1975), Jordan Spieth (2015), Raymond Floyd (1976) and Herman Keiser (1946) at the top of the biggest leads. All four had won.
And since the incredible victory of Nicklaus in 1986, no golfer excluded from the top 15 at the dawn of the final rounds has managed to put his paw on the famous green jacket.
Everything is possible
“It will be a tough third round. The wind will still be present, ”recalled Woods about the gusts of 45 km / h forecast in the weather report.
“It will also be cooler, he added while the mercury should oscillate between 5 and 15 degrees Celsius. This will be the tournament the committee has been waiting for for years.
“If I can get five or six strokes off the lead going into the final round and orchestrate a comeback push on Sunday, I have a chance. It is enough only to be present. It will be exciting and fun for everyone.”
Already very relieved that the big star is participating in the final rounds, broadcasters are already rubbing their hands with this declaration. Ratings should explode.
Could we witness a miracle on Sunday? In this department, Tiger knows it too. Everything is possible.
Conners in the race
The years go by and look alike for the Canadian Corey Conners. Placed in 10th place at -1, he is in the heart of the race for the final rounds.
Last year, he was ranked 13th after 36 holes and sixth heading into the final round. He had finished in eighth place, thus lining up a second top 10 in a row.
Had it not been for two bogeys in a row at the end of the run, the Ontarian could be in the top 5.
But as the saying goes: “With ‘ifs’, we go to Paris, with ‘ças’…”, we stay in Augusta! It’s the new saying of the golf gods.
Jokes aside, Conners brought back a card of 73 (+1) at the start of the afternoon on Friday.
With the winds getting stronger throughout this second round of the Masters Tournament, he finished at the right time.
Because, at the end of the day, you had to wear wool and tie your cap well on the course. The sustained winds of 20 to 30 km/h and gusts approaching 50 km/h somewhat annoyed the golfers who took the tee off at the end of the morning.
Only 13 of the 90 golfers on the board broke par.
“For a few holes, the wind had been blowing much stronger. I’m very happy to have taken the start in the morning, explained the one who finished around 1:45 p.m.
“I had never played this course with so much wind, chained the one who participates in his fifth Masters. I think I gave another solid performance. I fought fiercely. I saved good normals. I actually lost a few strokes towards the end, but it was a solid day’s work,” summed up the man who made bogeys in the 16th and 17th.
On the other hand, he can thank the Amen Corner goalkeepers who spared him in the 12th. Because his ball which touched the surface of the green of this formidable par 3, revolutionized and retreated in the slope overhanging Rae’s Creek without sinking.
He capitalized on that fluke with a cut approach that he sent straight to the bottom of the cut.
“I managed to save myself with a birdie. I thought I had executed a good downwind 8-iron shot. I hit my target. I had seen this small plateau above the bunker during the first round. But backing up, my ball could very well have fallen into the water. Luck smiled on me twice with this well-rounded approach.”
Battling against the wind, Conners still managed to hit 10 of 14 lanes, but he stood out most with his short game.
By hitting 11 of 18 greens in prescribed strokes, the 30-year-old Canadian said he had trouble judging the winds.
“In these conditions, it’s much more difficult to execute perfect shots, so you have to fall back on the short game. You have to master it. But you also have to avoid pitfalls. I feel good on these greens.”
Scheffler and Thomas aside
Among the scores in the red on Friday, Scottie Scheffler had nothing to do with the winds. The world number one made seven birdies and signed a second card of 67 (-5) to settle alone in command of the tournament with a record of -8. Five strokes ahead of Charl Schwartzel, Sungjae Im, Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama, the defending champion.
Justin Thomas is another who had a great day despite the conditions. A round of 67 (-5) allowed him to jump 60 ranks on the board and settle in 10th position.