2019 Masters

Woods stalks leaders after stirring finish

Tiger Woods was at his scrambling best on Friday, reaching 16 of 18 greens in regulation despite missing half of the 14 fairways at Augusta.
Tiger Woods was at his scrambling best on Friday, reaching 16 of 18 greens in regulation despite missing half of the 14 fairways at Augusta.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

AUGUSTA (Georgia) • As Tiger Woods was making his stirring late charge up a bunched Masters leaderboard on Friday, he was chasing a formidable cast of rivals that included six Major golf championship winners.

Any one of them could have tripped up his run at the lead as the tournament reached its halfway point.

Instead, for one alarming moment, it appeared that a stumbling security official at Augusta National Golf Club might derail Woods' most memorable Masters surge in years.

After he hit a shot out of the trees left of the 14th hole, a sprinting uniformed guard, who was trying to control the crowd just behind Woods, slipped on wet grass and slammed into his right ankle.

But the incident, which the former world No. 1 shrugged off, only spurred him on to greater heights.

With the galleries around him cheering wildly, Woods birdied the 14th and 15th holes, and he had two choice opportunities in the closing holes to vault into the lead.

While those birdie putts slid past the hole, he still managed a four-under 68 and a two-day score of six-under 138 that left him a shot off the lead shared by five golfers.

Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott, Francesco Molinari and Louis Oosthuizen - all Major winners - were tied at seven under.

After his round, Woods played down the collision with the security official as "accidental".

With a smile, he said: "You move on. I've had galleries run over me. When you play in front of a lot of people, things happen. But it's all good."

When pressed on whether he was physically sound for the final push, Woods grinned and answered: "Yeah, other than having four knee surgeries and four back surgeries, I'm fine. Good to go."

On a day when most of the top scores were produced by golfers teeing off in the morning, with the sun out, Woods' ascent up the leaderboard as an evening rainstorm drenched the golf course was something of a surprise.

At one point, it seemed the poor weather could undermine him, as play was suspended just after he hit his tee shot to the menacing 12th green, about five feet behind the hole.

When play resumed 29 minutes later, Woods, who admitted he grew stiff during the delay, missed the birdie putt.

Then his short birdie putt on the 13th hole stopped an inch in front of the hole's centre.

At the time, he was stuck at four under for the tournament. The 14-time Major winner added: "I had a few chances go the wrong way, but I wasn't too bummed about it because I also hit a lot of really good shots. So I was still confident."

Indeed, Woods was at his scrambling best, reaching 16 of 18 greens in regulation despite missing half of the fairways on the 14 par-four and par-five holes.

Afterwards, he could not resist stressing that he has now been "in the mix" in three consecutive Major championships, including last year's British Open and PGA Championship.

Dustin Johnson, the world's second-ranked golfer and another Major champion, finished a stroke behind the leaders, but world No. 1 Justin Rose missed the cut after shooting four over for two rounds.

Bryson DeChambeau, who was the joint-leader alongside Koepka after the opening day, suffered a back-nine implosion, signing for a 75 and a total of three-under 141.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 14, 2019, with the headline 'Woods stalks leaders after stirring finish'. Print Edition | Subscribe