AUGUSTA, Georgia – Tiger Woods thrilled Augusta National by leaping into contention in Friday’s second round of the Masters, firmly putting himself in the hunt for a historic 15th major title and fifth green jacket.
The 43-year-old American superstar fired a dramatic four-under-par 68 to share sixth place on six-under 138 through 36 holes, one stroke behind a record Masters lead logjam of five co-leaders – all of them major winners – on seven-under 137.
“It was fun,” Woods said. “I felt like I left a few shots out there. It was a solid day. I tried to grind it out there.”
Reigning British Open champion Francesco Molinari, last year’s British Open and PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, Australians Jason Day and Adam Scott and South African Louis Oosthuizen all shared the midway lead.
But their feats were all eclipsed by Woods, who signalled he would be a threat to capture his first major title since the 2008 US Open and first Masters title since 2005 – astonishing after years of knee and back injuries that made him doubt if he would ever play competitively again.
“After three knee surgeries and four back surgeries, I’m great,” Woods said.
Woods returned from spinal fusion surgery last year, and contended at the British Open and PGA Championship, then snapped a five-year US PGA Tour win drought at the Tour Championship.
He stretched his comeback story again on Friday, with no health issues after great play on one of golf’s biggest stages.
“The last two major championships, I’ve been right there,” Woods said. “All of a sudden, I’m here at the Masters.”
While Woods settled for being in a pack one adrift with second-ranked Dustin Johnson, fellow American Xander Schauffele and South African Justin Harding, there was no doubt he was the star to crowds glued to his every move.
After two early birdies and a bogey, Woods missed an eight-foot par putt at the par-5 eighth hole, and seemed destined for an unspectacular round.
What followed was vintage Woods, and brought back chilling roars harking to his 1997 “Tigermania” first major win.
Woods sank a 37-foot birdie putt at the ninth, dropped in a 13-footer for birdie at 11, then lipped out a birdie chance at the par-3 12th after a storm delay.
At 14, Woods escaped trees left of the fairway, put his approach to 28 feet and holed the testy putt to reach five-under.