Birds-Eye View Day 2 with Tiger at the Masters

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The ropes had just come down on the ninth fairway, and the masses were ready to cross and make their way toward Amen Corner. All, that is, except for a fashionably dressed blonde who was in pursuit of her favorite player.
 
'Has Funk come through here yet?' she asked.
 
'Who?'
 
'Fred Funk. Has he come through?'
 
Funk hadn't, though he could be excused for taking his time. The day before, he played the back nine in a fat 46 that included a dreaded snowman on the 15th hole.
 
The woman's question was, however, confirmation that not all of the many thousands of patrons (Masters terminology for people who buy tickets) strolling about Augusta National Golf Club on a cool Friday afternoon were there just to watch Tiger Woods.
 
It only seemed that way.
 
All around the famed course, people stood on their tiptoes trying to catch a glance of the faraway figure in an orange shirt and sweater vest. They gasped when things went bad, something that happened on this day with astonishing regularity, and talked excitedly among each other when things were good.
 
Proving that Woods is even more of a crossover athlete than ever thought, some birds even tried to get a view of the action.
 
Unfortunately, their timing was a bit off. They flew over Woods just as he began his downswing on the 13th tee, forcing him to twist like a stunted magnolia tree in a desperate -- and ultimately successful -- effort to stop from hitting the ball.
 
Let Funk try that sometime.
 
'Of all the things I've seen him do, unbelievable,' playing partner Paul Casey said.
 
Information filtering in slowly from the front lines confirmed that Woods actually did stop his swing. The news was relayed from the green folding Masters chairs along the front rows of the 13th fairway, through fans crowded 20 deep behind them, and finally to those on the outside who by now were just hoping to get a glimpse of greatness.
 
They didn't even notice the short Asian woman behind them dressed in a Tiger-stripe blouse with matching hat. She was busy looking for a hill that would give her a vantage point to see the famous player, who just happened to be her son.
 
Kultida Woods didn't find the hill in time, but it was probably for the best. Her son promptly chunked his next shot into the water in front of the 13th green, the second time in two holes his ball had found the wet stuff.
 
Word soon came in from the front confirming exactly that.
 
'Tiger's in the water!'
 
'You sure? The water?'
 
'Yes, the water.'
 
'Damn.'
 
It was that kind of day for those on the Tiger watch, which on most days means 98 percent of the gallery at Augusta National. There may be an occasional Fred Funk fan or Phil Mickelson groupie, but for the most part it's all Tiger all the time.
 
On this day the wind whispered through the tall Georgia pines (just why wind always whispers can be better explained by the same people who call fans patrons) and there was an odd chill in the air. Even odder was the play of Woods, who was supposed to come here and win his fifth green jacket -- and third straight major championship -- without any real problem.
 
He opened Thursday with an indifferent 73 that included bogeys on the last two holes, though there wasn't much cause for concern because Woods has never broken 70 in the first round of the Masters. The consensus among the patrons was that he would go low in the second round because, well, he was Tiger Woods and he had almost always done better in the second round of a Masters.
 
What the patrons didn't count on was that Woods would be so wild that even the ample manicured fairways couldn't save him. He had what he called a 'two-way miss' going on, meaning the patrons lining the ropes on the right were in as much danger as those on the left.
 
That meant shots out of the woods, and drops from the water. It meant hitting a shot left-handed on the ninth hole, and one way over the green on the 15th hole.
 
If he didn't one-putt six of eight holes in the middle of the round, it likely would have meant he was out of contention.
 
'I felt like I turned basically a 90 into a 74 today, which is nice,' Woods said. 'Yesterday I threw away a good round, and today I salvaged a bad one.'
 
Which, of course, brings us to tomorrow.
 
Saturday is historically moving day at the Masters, and Woods historically has been one to do a lot of moving. He's shot 65 twice in the third round, 66 two other times, and 68 on two more occasions.
 
Woods is only five shots back, and with temperatures in the 40s and no rain in the forecast, the course should remain fast and hard, just the way he likes it.
 
'With the weather coming on the weekend, I'm right there in the ballgame,' Woods said.
 
That will surely make the patrons happy because the last thing they want to do is go to the trouble of bundling up just to see a duel between Brett Wetterich and Tim Clark. Amen Corner can be a cold and lonely place on a Saturday afternoon without Woods in contention.
 
Woods hardly needs it, but he might have at least one more fan cheering him on.
 
Because Fred Funk didn't make the cut.
 
Related Links:
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