Tiger Woods must pull out all the stops on Saturday if he’s to gain ground on Masters leader Scottie Scheffler and give himself a shot at capping another remarkable comeback with a sixth green jacket.
The 15-time major champion, playing in his first tournament in 17 months and the first since suffering career-threatening injuries to his lower right leg, delivered a gutsy performance on Friday after flirting with his first missed cut in 22 appearances as a professional at Augusta National.
He went into the third round nine shots behind newly minted world number one Scheffler, who defied the swirling winds that pushed up scores to card a five-under par 67, his eight-under total of 136 putting him five shots clear of defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, South Korean Im Sung-jae and 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel of Japan.
Matsuyama is trying to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Woods as the only players to win back-to-back Masters.
Noting that Scheffler managed to “take care of his business” despite the demanding second-round conditions, Woods said he would have to do the same on Saturday.
“I could have easily kicked myself out of the tournament, but I kept myself in it,” Woods said. “I need to go out there and put myself there. If you’re within five or six on that back nine going into Sun-day, you’ve got a chance, so I just need to get there.” Woods said the dry, chilly weather — it was forecast to be just above 50F (10C) when Woods teed off at 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) — would make the course firmer and faster.
He liked the idea of that challenge, but has said that cold weather is harder on his surgically repaired back.
A litany of injuries has been the backdrop to the stunning career that has made Woods a sensation beyond the golf and sports world.
His fifth Masters title in 2019 capped an unlikely comeback from spinal fusion surgery that could have ended his career.
Now he’s seeking an even more improbable re-turn after injuries that left him unable to walk for three months and in fear of losing his lower right leg.
“Well, I don’t feel as good as I would like to feel,” Woods said with a rueful laugh after the second round. “That’s OK. I’ve got a chance going into the weekend.” Woods goes into the weekend just four shots behind the quartet sharing second.—APP