AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Tiger Woods knew this day should’ve turned out so much better.
He was cruising toward the end of the second round at the Masters on Friday, tied for a share of the lead and looking every bit like the guy who would be in control heading to the weekend.
Then, with one tough break at the 15th hole, everything changed.
Woods struck the flagstick and wound up in the water, forcing him to scramble for bogey. A three-putt at the final hole left him with another bogey. Instead of leading, he found himself three shots behind 36-hole leader Jason Day.
“The sun was in my eyes, so I knew I started the ball on the flag,” Woods said. “I didn’t know if I cut it enough, but evidently it was a really good one.”
Too good, in fact.
The ball struck the stick with a resounding thud, which sent it careening back right into the pond in front of the green. After taking his penalty stroke, Woods needed a brilliant do-over just to salvage bogey. The unfortunate bounce seemed to take all the momentum out of his round.
Woods finished with a 1-under 71 for a 3-under 141 overall.
He’s right in the mix heading to the weekend, but seemed a bit stunned that his name wasn’t higher on the leaderboard.
“I really swung the club well and didn’t really get a lot out of this round,” Woods said. “Granted, these conditions were tough. It was swirling all over the place.”
Even playing in the afternoon, when the wind picked up significantly after a rainy, overcast morning, Woods got off to a stellar start. There was a stretch of three birdies in four holes on the front side. After a gust caught his tee shot at the par-3 12th, he pulled off a brilliant up-and-down from the back bunker to keep pace with the leaders.
He figured to have a good shot at birdie after laying up at the 15th — certainly no worse than par — after laying up 87 yards from the hole, leaving him a soft wedge over the pond.
Unfortunately for Woods, it didn’t work out.
“I was pretty (ticked),” he said. “I felt like I played really well today and the round should’ve been in the 60s.”
At least Woods managed a better finish than Dustin Johnson, who tumbled off the leaderboard with a 76 after being up by two strokes. Johnson was the victim of a double-bogey at the 15th (he also dunked one in the pond), a bogey at the 17th, and another double-bogey at the 18th. Then there’s Sergio Garcia, who was the 18-hole leader but also soared to a 76, nary a birdie on his card.
Compared to them, Woods is in much better shape.
He’s ready to start getting some payback on the weekend.
“There’s a long way to go,” said Woods, again cheered by his girlfriend, Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn. “We’ve got 36 holes and this is a tricky test.”
He’s faced more daunting 36-hole deficits in two of his four Masters victories, but Saturday’s round will likely go a long way toward determining whether he’s donning a green jacket for the fifth time on Sunday.
Woods has never won any of his 14 major championships without holding at least a share of the lead going to the final round.
If he plays like he did on Friday, he’ll like his chances.
“I really played well,” Woods said. “The score is not indicative of quite how well I played.”
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