THE PUTTS WENT IN. After a sluggish start that included three bogeys in the first seven holes, Tiger Woods sank seven birdies in the last 11 holes en route to a 66 that moved him to within three shots of Rory McIlroy’s lead. Tiger’s touch on the glassy Augusta greens was back, like at 11 where he coaxed in a ticklish par-saver. His tee shots were still shaky at times, but many of his approach shots were on target, like at 18 where he carved his ball around the pines to set up a finishing birdie.
The look was also back as Tiger marched through the back nine and up the leaderboard late on Friday. On Saturday he’ll be paired with K.J. Choi, who posted a 70. The two played all four rounds together at last year’s Masters. They enjoy each others’ company.
Playing with leader McIlroy, Aussie Jason Day fired a brilliant 64, the day’s best round. Day is 8 under, two off McIlroy’s lead. Rory continued to stripe the ball, although the putts didn’t fall like they did on Thursday when he shot a 65. Rickie Fowler, the third musketeer, carded a 69 to keep himself in the hunt at 5 under.
After his second 69, Geoff Ogilvy is at 6 under along with first round co-leader Alvaro Quiros. Ricky Barnes, Fred Couples and Lee Westwood are tied with Fowler. Couples posted an age-defying 68. Freddie loves Augusta. It’s a crazy love. Phil Mickelson shot an even-par 72, and at 2 under has a lot of work to do on Saturday if he wants to crash the party.
The third round will be intriguing, for it’s a test. Will Tiger continue to hit good approach shots and hole putts? I think he can, especially at Augusta. On the other hand, Tiger hasn’t put together back-to-back rounds in a while. The pins will be tougher to get to; the greens will be harder and faster.
I’m also curious to see how the young bucks respond. For all the talk about Tiger’s intimidation factor being a thing of the past, I wonder if McIlroy and Day will have the twitches. My hunch is that Day will struggle. The Masters pressure might just beat him silly. Rory is a little more battle tested. But will he putt like Sergio Garcia?
As Rickie Fowler says, game on.
−The Armchair Golfer
(Photo credit: Gary Hisanaga, Flickr, Creative Commons license)