Tiger Woods shook off a short weather delay and a close encounter with a security guard, pulled off a miracle recovery shot and sank some monster putts to put himself one shot off the lead midway through the Masters.
Friday’s second round featured all the drama long associated with golf’s undisputed superstar – whose four-under par 68 put him on six-under 138 and one shot behind a remarkable bunch of five current and former major champions sharing the lead on seven-under 137.
“I feel like I played my own way back into the tournament,” the 43-year-old said. “I was just very patient today, felt very good to be out there doing what I was doing.
“This is now three straight majors that I’ve been in the mix and so it’s good stuff.”
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.
Despite the leading group’s undeniable credentials, it was Woods’s surge toward the top that stole the spotlight.
After contending in last year’s British Open and PGA Championship in his first season back from spinal fusion surgery Woods is again in position to add to his tally of 14 major titles for the first time since the 2008 US Open.
Woods wasn’t flawless, with some notable misses of mid- and short-range putts.
He missed an eight-footer to save par at the eighth, a five-footer for birdie at 12, a 12-footer for birdie at 13 and another eight-footer for birdie at 17.
The massive gallery that stuck with him through the afternoon rain held its breath as he stood over a 14-foot birdie attempt at 18 that would have put him among the leaders, but it dribbled away at the hole and he settled for a par.
“Yeah, I missed a few putts out there but I’m not too bummed out about it because I hit them on my lines,” Woods said. “So I can live with that. I can live with days when I’m hitting putts on my line and they just don’t go in – that’s the way it goes.
“The only two bad putts I hit today were all on the same hole, over on eight, I three-putted. I had a bad first putt and a bad second putt. But other than that my speed was great and I hit a lot of putts that looked like they were going in.”
And he had a few long-range bombs to compensate – including a 37-footer for birdie at the ninth, another from 28 feet at 14 and a 30-footer at 15.
“They were nice to make and if I keep hitting the putts on my line they will start dropping,” he said.
On song after the break
Woods had made the only birdie of the day at the par-four 11th and had stuck his approach at the par-three 12th five feet from the pin when the siren sounded to suspend play because of lightning in the area.
When play resumed after half an hour, Woods missed the putt. He missed a 12-foot birdie try at the next but came up with a thriller at 14, bending a shot through the trees.
“I was literally just trying to hit the ball short,” he said. “If it happened to skip up, great, but make sure I keep it on the flag side ... If I keep it on the flag side I have an easy pitch.
“That was the game plan and it came out perfect to fruition.”
Rain was still falling as Woods headed toward the green at 14 and a security officer, hurrying to keep the crowds behind him, lost his footing and slid into Woods’s right leg.
Woods took a few frightening, stumbling steps but later pronounced himself just fine.
“I’ve had galleries run over me,” he said. “When you play in front of a lot of people, things happen.”