The National Times - Tiger struggles as windy Masters confounds contenders

Tiger struggles as windy Masters confounds contenders

Tiger struggles as windy Masters confounds contenders
Tiger struggles as windy Masters confounds contenders

Tiger Woods faltered in his incredible comeback from severe leg injuries early in Friday's second round of the Masters with gusting winds wreaking havoc at Augusta National.

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The 15-time major champion teed off only three strokes behind the leaders but made four bogeys on the first five holes and was at risk of missing the cut after firing a one-under par 71 Thursday in an epic return 14 months after a car crash.

But after his poor start Friday, Woods chipped to two feet and tapped in to birdie the par-5 eighth then saved par from six feet at the ninth to finish the front nine on three-over 39 for the round and two-over for the tournament -- five off the lead.

South African Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion who has missed the cut in his six 2022 US PGA starts, fired a 69 Friday to share the clubhouse lead on three-under 141 with South Korean Im Sung-jae, who stumbled to a 74.

"I never thought about a score," Schwartzel said. "I did a very good job staying in the moment and hit every shot where I aimed in. I was very disciplined and didn't give myself any trouble."

World number one Scottie Scheffler was on the course at 3-under through seven holes.

Woods was two strokes above the projected cut to the low 50 and level at four-over par as he began the back nine in blustery conditions.

Despite his struggles, the buzz around the course remained with Woods as spectators lined every hole to watch the 46-year-old legend as he battled the pain in his surgically repaired right leg to walk the hilly 7,510-yard layout.

Rods, plates and pins help hold together his leg after he was hospitalized for weeks and unable to walk for months. Rehabilitation work has allowed the medical marvel to make an epic comeback at an iconic setting.

Woods teed off in Friday's third-to-last group alongside only Chile's Joaquin Niemann after 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa withdrew due to injury.

Woods found a fairway bunker with his first tee shot, went right of the green and missed a seven-foot birdie putt. At the par-5 second, he escaped a fairway bunker and saved par, but missed another seven-footer for par to bogey the third hole.

Woods missed the green at the par-3 fourth on the way to bogey and sent his tee shot right into trees on the way to a bogey at the fifth.

At the seventh, Woods found only his second fairway of the day but missed a 14-foot birdie putt, still a sign his game had risen before his soldi finish to the front side.

Woods, who has slid to 973rd in world rankings, is chasing a win to match the all-time Masters record of six by Jack Nicklaus and break the record he shares with Sam Snead of 82 career US PGA victories.

- 'It's a special place' -

World number 172 Schwartzel, out in the day's fourth group, had two bogeys and five birdies with impressive approaches to set up birdies, including to two feet at 10 and four feet at the par-3 16th.

Schwartzel, 37, birdied the last four holes to win the green jacket 11 years ago and said Augusta National still inspires.

"It's a special place," said Schwartzel, who last won any title in 2016. "If this place can't get your spirits up to play, it's time to stop."

Overnight leader Im had three birdies against five bogeys, the last of those at the 18th, to fall back.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, seeking a green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam, fired a second straight 73 to stand on 146 for 36 holes, five off the pace. McIlroy hasn't won a major title since 2014.

Among those who were in danger of missing the cut were fourth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway, who shot 76 to stand on 148, four-time major winner Brooks Koepka and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth on 150 after rounds of 75 and 76 respectively and Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele on 151 after a 77.