AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods didn’t lose ground Saturday morning. The question is: Did he gain enough? Woods made just one birdie over his seven-and-a-half holes to wrap a second-round 71. At 5 under par, he’ll enter the “weekend” at Augusta National four off the pace.
Quick thoughts on the end of Round 2 before a quick turnaround to Round 3:
• He couldn’t afford to drop a shot right out of the gate, and his up-and-down from in front of the green at 11 was massive. When that ticklish 5-footer snuck in the right edge, I thought we were off and running.
• We were not. The tee shot at 12 was a touch conservative, 15 feet right of the flag. He hit a wonderful putt that broke across the entirety of the hole in the very last foot. No harm, no foul.
• The real disappointment came at 13, when a push-draw with a fairway wood found the second cut by just a few feet. Tiger said after his round that he doesn’t think the grounds crew mowed that second cut overnight, that it was longer this morning. No doubt it led to his lay up out to the right, 90 yards from the front pin. A wedge with some action gave him a great look at birdie — 10 feet up the hill — he just pulled it.
• And I thought for sure he were headed for a similar dynamic at 15. He put a lot into his drive, but the ball hit and died in the fairway, leaving him 243 down the hill and prompting him to again lay up. When his wedge spun back to 20 feet, he was in danger of failing to capitalize on either par 5.
• Of course, he drained it.
Quote Tiger: Guys tend to over-read that putt. These are the kinds of things you know and the kind of things you say when you’ve won five times.
• So he didn’t make the two or three birdies we were looking for to really vault him near the top of this leaderboard. Instead, he put on a short-game clinic. Where the up-and-down at 11 was a grind, the checked chips into the hills at 14 and 18 were the work of a savant. They helped him save par and kept him afloat. They also belong in some kind of museum. Vintage Woods.
• Four back through 36 with 16 in front of him and five more tied. It’s doable. But he’s going to need to be aggressive about it. This is a little different golf course this year. And guys like Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm aren’t going to be plotting their way around. It’s time to put the pedal down.