Halt the obituaries and farewell tour columns — Tiger Woods showed on Friday at the Masters that he’s not “done.” In fact, he can still play golf pretty well. Woods, who posted a one-over 73 in the first round, shot a three-under 69 for his first sub-70 score at Augusta National since 2011.
“(I’m) very proud of what I’ve done, to be able to dig it out the way I have,” said Woods. “I told you guys on Tuesday, I was at a pretty low one in my career, but to basically change an entire pattern like that and put it together and put it in a position where I can compete in a major championship like this is something I’m very proud (of).”
Tiger sits at 2-under at the halfway mark of the season’s first major at the Masters, putting him at a tie for 19th — and trailing 36-hole leader Jordan Spieth by 12 shots. However, Woods thinks he’s still in the hunt for his fifth green jacket.
“I’m still right there,” said Woods. “I’m 12 back, but there’s not a lot of guys ahead of me. And with 36 holes here to go, anything can happen, you know. ’96 proved that.
“So we have a long way to go. There’s so many holes to play and so many different things can happen. And as I say, we don’t know what the conditions are going to be tomorrow, what the committee is going to do.”
By “committee,” Woods is referring to the Masters’ tournament committee and how they decide to set up the golf course for Saturday’s third round at Augusta National. In his post-round scrum, Tiger repeatedly referenced the committee when answering questions — even when the question had nothing to do with them — and made remarks about the soft conditions, which lent to some low scores over the past two days. As we saw, Spieth shot the lowest 36-hole total in Masters’ history.
“The scoring conditions were there, because the greens were soft,” said Woods. “I mean we could be aggressive. And the balls were staying back. I was talking to Thomas Bjorn and (Mark) O’Meara and even Tom Watson earlier today and we couldn’t believe how slow they were yesterday. Again, they were slow again today.
“The balls were spinning back. 5‑irons were making ball marks, things like that, things that you just don’t normally find here. But it’s up to the committee. If they want to make this golf course a little drier — I was telling the guys earlier, it’s quiet out there, there’s no sub airs going. If they turn the sub airs on, they can suck the moisture out of this thing and get them firm, or they can live with it like it is, and we can go out there and make a bunch of birdies.”
Sounds like Woods wants the Green Jackets to pump up the sub-air system in the greens to create firmer, faster conditions.
In the first round, Tiger’s ballstriking was rather erratic and it was actually his short game that saved him from letting it get away from him completely and posting a higher score.
On Friday, he grinded once again, but he looked much sharper in all aspects, particularly off the tee. He put himself in good position in the fairway with his drives and set him up nicely for birdies on nos. 1, 7 and 8 — though he did throw in a bogey on no. 6 after a chunked chip. He added another birdie on the difficult par-4 11th, but failed to take advantage of the par-5s, which are both reachable-in-two, on the back nine. His most celebratory reaction of the day came on the par-4 17th, where he drained a 10-footer to save par and keep his momentum going.
However, Woods had trouble with the speed of the greens, leaving many putts short.
“I had a hard time getting the ball close to the hole,” he said. “We all did in our group. We were talking about that again today. We talked about it all day yesterday. We talked about it all day today. It was hard ‑‑ you expect certain putts to roll out, but they’re not rolling out. They just don’t have quite the same roll out, and especially some of the downhill putts. We left a couple short coming down the hills and so you’ve got to make the adjustments. And our group didn’t really do a very good job of it. But honestly Jordan is doing a great job of it.”
Asked when he last played a better round, Woods replied, “I have no idea.”
Well, it’s certainly the best he’s played in 2015.
Tiger admitted to watching scoreboards out on the course, and acknowledges the comparisons that will be made to what Spieth is doing now at age 21 to what Woods did at the same age in the 1997 Masters. That year Woods put on a historic performance, setting the tournament scoring record at 18-under, not to mention the largest margin of victory with the nearest competitor finishing 12 shots back. This week, the first record is in danger of being broken by Spieth, who is currently at 14-under.
“The difference is that he’s separated himself between first and third,” said Woods. “I didn’t have that separation after two rounds. I believe I only had a three-shot lead at the time. So there’s a big difference. He’s put out a big enough gap between the rest of the pack.
“Again, it’s up to what the committee does overnight, whether or not they’re going to make the golf course like this where we can go get it or if they’re going to make it hard and firm, where it’s going to be tough to make birdies.”