AUGUSTA, Ga. — An hour into his second round on the Masters Tournament on Friday, Tiger Woods looked baffled. A poor chip on the primary hole had led to a bogey. He squandered a likelihood at birdie on the par-5 second hole with middling pitch. He missed a makable downhill par on the third green.
It only got worse on the fourth hole: a poor tee shot, a flubbed bump-and-run approach, a bogey. On the following hole, one other bogey, his fourth within the opening five holes.
Woods’s shoulders slumped, he shook his head and laughed as if mocking his own ineptitude. That isn’t his usual demeanor.
But his precision under pressure from Thursday’s uplifting first round, when Woods shot a one-under-par 71, looked as if it would have deserted him.
Friday was different from the beginning, a cold day at Augusta National Golf Club with winds gusting as much as 20 miles an hour. Perhaps after Woods walked 18 holes on Thursday in his first competitive round in 17 months, his surgically rebuilt right leg was sore.
He would have been forgiven for having an off day when it gave the look of the boldness and resilience mustered in his previous round just wasn’t there.
As an alternative, Woods stopped snickering at himself. He battled back to regular his round with 4 birdies in his next nine holes. The remaining of his day was removed from perfect, and sometimes still erratic, however it had the determination, flair and dramatics of a vintage Tiger Woods golf round.
In the long run, Woods shot a two-over-par 74 with 4 birdies and 6 bogeys to complete one over par for the tournament, a rating that can advance him to the ultimate two rounds this weekend. Woods is tied for nineteenth place, nine strokes behind the leader, Scottie Scheffler.
“I could have easily kicked myself out of the tournament today, but I kept myself in it,” Woods said afterward. “It was a superb fight. I got back within the ball game.”
There have been other positives for Woods besides his ability to recuperate from a poor begin to the second round. Physically, he looked as if it would handle hilly Augusta National more comfortably than he did in Thursday’s first round. His limp was less pronounced, and he negotiated the numerous elevation changes more quickly and aggressively.
“I’m starting to come back around,” he said, crediting a team of rehabilitation specialists who travel with him and help him prepare from round to round. He compared the crew to a NASCAR team that keeps cars running fast and smooth.
“After I’m going ahead and break it on the market, they go ahead and repair it at night,” Woods said. “I’m good at breaking it. They’re good at fixing it.”
Woods’s second-round comeback began on the long par-5 eighth hole when he faded a protracted drive to the left side of the green to have the very best angle into the green. His second shot with a fairway wood landed simply to the suitable of the putting surface, and from there Woods lofted a soft, spinning chip that settled eight inches from the opening for a tap-in birdie.
On the ninth hole, his approach missed the devilish, sloping and elevated green, but he delicately stopped his third shot inside six feet of the opening then drained a par putt he desperately needed to make.
At three over par, it was an ineffectual opening nine holes, but Woods had closed with some spirited, proficient and resourceful play and made the turn two over par for the tournament, which was still in contact with the names atop the leaderboard.
Things began to look up on the tenth hole, when Woods split the green with a draw and selected a fearless approach to a hole cut only 12 feet from the suitable fringe of the green. The protected course would have been to aim for the center of the green. Woods disregarded that notion and sent his shot toward the narrow slice of green right of the flag.
Safely on the putting surface, the ball stopped eight feet from hole, close enough for Woods to roll it in for one more birdie.
On the recently redesigned eleventh hole, which played because the hardest hole on the course in the primary round, Woods hit two solid shots and appeared poised to make a much needed par from just off the green. But his short chip ran well past the opening and produced one other bogey.
Perhaps rattled by the setback, Woods can have made a mental mistake when he selected a 7-iron on the diabolic par-3 twelfth hole, which was playing into the stiff wind. But a 7-iron was an excessive amount of club on the 155-yard hole and his tee shot sailed well over the green, landing near an azalea bush before rebounding right into a bunker behind the small twelfth green.
With Rae’s Creek not distant, Woods took an abbreviated swing from the sand. His ball exited but only just a few feet and didn’t reach the green. Two putts later, his rating was back to 2 over.
Time for one more rally.
On the par-5 thirteenth hole, after an accurate drive and a courageous fairway wood struck over the pond protecting the green, Woods deftly put his third green-side shot close enough to make a brief birdie putt. One other precise drive — Woods’s accuracy together with his driver was much improved on Friday — arrange a well-placed approach shot to the 14th green and one other birdie that moved him to 2 over par for the tournament.
Woods would close his day with 4 pars. Not making the most of the par-5 fifteenth hole — a certain birdie opportunity for many of the players in the sector — was a disappointment. And on the par-3 sixteenth, Woods showed his years of experience at Augusta National when he sent his tee shot onto the hill well right of a left pin placement. The ball spun and rolled to inside nine feet of the opening, but Woods’s putt skirted the sting of the cup. The seventeenth hole was similar — well played but lacking a decisively made birdie putt.
On the closing, 18th hole, Woods’s approach shot went far past the cup cut within the lower half of the green. But his lengthy downhill putt from near the back fringe settled five feet from the opening, organising a putt that Woods sank with aplomb.
Woods marched from the green and toward the clubhouse and locker room with a confident grin, his head up and searching forward.
“Conditions on the weekend are going be tough,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting, and it’s going to be fun for all of us.”