Tigers Back -- Way Back

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Tiger Woods wasn't supposed to be in this position -- needing a 3-foot putt to make the cut at the Masters.
 
Woods sank the testy putt Saturday morning to complete the second round, ensuring that he'll be around for the rest of the weekend.
 
But his pursuit of an unprecedented third straight victory at Augusta National is in serious jeopardy. Woods finished the second round with a 1-over-par 73, leaving him 5-over for the tournament and 11 strokes behind leader Mike Weir.
 
No one has ever come from more that eight strokes back after 36 holes to win the Masters.
 
After the putt dropped in, Woods pursed his lips, gave a quick tip of the cap and rubbed his brow. He didn't smile until later.
 
'That putt was either going in or going off the green,' Woods said.
 
'No doubt about it,' he added, rolling his eyes.
 
Woods obviously was relieved to have a chance to play two more rounds. If history is any indication, though, he'll be handing out the green jacket to someone else Sunday night.
 
Weir, trying to become the first left-hander in 40 years to win a major championship, went into the third round Saturday afternoon with a four-stroke lead.
 
He completed a 68 in the morning, giving him a two-round total of 138. The 6-under total made him one of just four players to eclipse par at the halfway point, a testament to the soggy, elongated course that has brought most of golf's best players to their knees.
 
Woods stands at 149. Jack Burke overcame an eight-shot deficit after 36 holes to win the 1956 Masters, but no one has ever come from further back.
 
Woods may have to settle for extending his streak of cuts made to 102. He's now 11 short of the tour record held by Byron Nelson.
 
Finishing up at No. 9, Woods had to scramble just to make the necessary par. He knocked his tee shot under the pine trees on the right side of the fairway, then punched a 5-iron into a bunker on the left side.
 
But he was able to get up and down, blasting out of the sand to 3 feet and making the putt. At least now he won't have to hang around all weekend just to give out the green jacket, a fate that befell the first man to win two straight majors.
 
After winning at Augusta in 1965-66, Nicklaus failed to make the cut in '67. He missed out by shooting a second-round 79.
 
'It's not a lot of fun when you're used to winning and you're struggling just to make the cut,' Nicklaus said.
 
Nick Faldo is the only other golfer to win two straight Masters, in 1989-90.
 
Unless Woods can pull off an incredible comeback this weekend, he'll have to settle for tying the record.
 
The 5-foot-8 Weir isn't a big hitter. Certainly, he's not the sort of player who's supposed to be leading at Augusta, where the course was stretched to 7,290 yards last year. After five days of rain earlier in the week, the course has been playing even longer.
 
But the 32-year-old Canadian bolstered his score by making a bunch of 5- and 6-foot comebackers after sliding putts past the hole. Those are the shots of a Masters champion-in-the-making.
 
'I have always felt like the next step for me is to try to contend in major championships,' said Weir, who bogeyed just three of the first 36 holes. 'So far I'm doing it. We'll see if I can do it all week.'
 
The most immediate pursuers were not Woods, but Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland at 142, followed by Phil Mickelson and amateur Ricky Barnes at 143.
 
Barnes, who played with Woods, was six strokes better than his partner.
 
Woods was upset early. In good position for birdie on the second hole, his first of the day, he could only get his 67-yard pitch to 20 feet and had to settle for par.
 
'I've got a name on my bag. I should be able to get it closer than that,' he said.
 
Woods had a 7-foot birdie putt to get to 1-over -- at the time only six strokes out of the lead -- but he pulled that one and flung his putter into his bag.
 
'From there, things got progressively worse,' he said.
 
At the par-3 fourth, Woods pulled his tee shot into a bunker, then skulled out of the sand, across the green and into another bunker, making double-bogey.
 
Then it really got bizarre.
 
At No. 6, another par-3, Woods wound up chipping from on the green and putting from off the green, making bogey to slip to 5-over -- right on the cut line.
 
He answered with a wedge to 6 feet for birdie at the seventh, then had his first three-putt of the tournament at the next hole. After missing a 3-footer for par, he had to make a 6-footer for bogey.
 
While Woods is capable of making up 11 strokes, the most imposing number is 42 -- the number of players between the world's best player and the lead.
 
Yet Woods wasn't giving up.
 
'You never know,' he said. 'If I can get to even par at the end of the day, things are looking all right.'
 
The start of the tournament was delayed until Friday by all the rain. Woods started with a 76 -- his worst opening at a major since he was a 20-year-old amateur playing the U.S. Open in 1996.
 
Only 18 players were able to get in 36 holes Friday. The rest of the 93-player field returned Saturday morning to complete the second round.
 
While they were finishing up, Martha Burk's supporters gathered on a grassy patch of land along Washington Road, a half-mile from the front gate to Magnolia Lane.
 
Jessica Terlikowskia, a 25-year-old full-time activist from Washington, said thousands of people support Burk's cause to admit a female member at Augusta National. But only a few hundred people -- including those who oppose Burk -- were expected to picket outside the club.
 
'This is not just one woman battling Hootie,' Terlikowskia said, referring to Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson. 'It's definitely to show that she's not alone, and that many people recognize that for women to reach full equality, we have to have access to all places.'
 
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • Photo Gallery
  • Augusta National Course Tour
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
     
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