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Masters Another Mess for Tiger

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Crouching in the pine straw, trying to avoid the trees, Tiger Woods took a whack at the ball, simply hoping to get it back in play. He did - on his way to a double bogey that wound up as only one of his several miserable moments at Augusta National.
His swing still not in sync, his short game not much better, Woods struggled through a frustrating 14 holes over the first round of the Masters on Thursday before play was called because of darkness.
He came back Friday morning to make his first and only birdie of the round and finish at 3-over-par 75. It was his fifth straight round over par in the majors, the longest streak of his career.
'I'm done for today, thanks,' was all he offered Thursday night as he hurriedly left the course.
He began the second round eight strokes behind leader Justin Rose - much closer to the projected cut line than a fourth green jacket. Everyone within 10 strokes of the second-round leader will stay for the weekend.
This is the second straight tournament, as well as the second straight Masters, in which Woods has struggled to make the cut.
Last year, he played 21 holes before he made his first birdie, and needed an up-and-down from a sand bunker on 18 to stay for the weekend. Two weeks ago, he struggled the first day at The Players Championship and was tied for 108th place, but made the cut easily.
After he rallied to finish 16th there, he said he thought his swing - faltering without the supervision of his ex-coach, Butch Harmon - was getting better.
If there were any signs of that Thursday, Woods left them on the driving range.
The defining moment came on No. 5, when his second shot hit a mound, and the ball ricocheted into a thicket of bushes. Bending over the straw, gripping down near the blade of the club, he bunted the ball back into play. But the damage was done. He missed a putt that would have saved bogey and stood at 3-over.
'I mean, obviously, Tiger had an off day today,' said 19-year-old amateur Casey Wittenburg, who played with Woods and was clearly stunned to be leading him by three shots. 'But he's the world's No. 1. He's the best player in the world. I'm sure he'll sleep on this and he'll come back out strong again.'
It's certainly possible, but there were very few signs that a turnaround was imminent.
On No. 11, Woods hit an approach shot that fed to the bottom of the hill fronting the green. He angrily flipped his club at caddie Steve Williams, who spent the day playing matador, trying to evade all the metal flying his way.
On No. 13, Woods proved it wasn't just his full swing that was hurting. Lying 2 from a small valley on the left side of the green, Woods took out his putter and tried to ram the ball up the hill and toward the hole, 50 feet away. He left himself a 20 footer and two-putted for par, hardly the goal on that par-5 hole.
On 14, he drove errantly toward the right - 'Aw, Tiger,' he yelled - then needed a splendid, low, running shot out of the hard-packed mud and pine straw to get to the green and simply save par.
The round was delayed two hours by an afternoon rainstorm. When the horns finally blew at sunset to halt play, Woods was standing on the 15th tee box and looked one part exhausted, another part relieved.
He took a deep breath, slipped his watch off and started walking up the 10th fairway, toward the clubhouse. When he got there, he opened the screen door, went inside and bounced up the spiral staircase to the champion's locker room. Moments later, he was in the car, driving away, a lot closer to missing the cut than winning his ninth major.
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
  • Masters Photo Gallery
  • Tee Times
  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters
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