Masters: Tiger Woods battles his way past the cutline at windy Augusta

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The second round of the 2022 Masters won’t go down as one of Tiger Woods’ legendary performances. The record will show that he took 74 strokes to gingerly step his way around the course. He finished the day at +1 for the week, nine strokes behind leader Scottie Scheffler and out of contention in the minds of everyone but himself.

That’s the thing about numbers, though. They don’t tell the full story. Scorecards come a bit closer. Woods’ was a ransom-note collage of six front-loaded bogeys and four round-saving birdies, a testament to the way he hauled his surgically repaired body around all 7,475 yards of Augusta National Golf Club.

To get the full measure of the day, you needed to watch Woods close-up, watch how he battled the elements and himself, watch how he hung on like a water skier dragged by a cigarette boat. He bogeyed four of the first five holes, obliterating all evidence of his miraculous 1-under Thursday performance. He started the day by touring the bunkers of the first nine, and his putts rolled everywhere but into the hole.

As the bogeys piled up, the cut line loomed in the distance, a waterfall at the end of the river where Woods was clutching a piece of driftwood and trying to stay afloat. The winds swirled around Augusta National, gusting up from the direction of Rae’s Creek as much as 31 miles an hour.

Woods wasn’t the only player having trouble — past Masters champions and multiple-major winners flailed in the wind — but on a day where the clearly ailing Woods needed everything to break his way, nothing did for the first seven holes.

"There were so many things that were not going my way," Woods said after the round. "It was partly the conditions, and partly me."

And then, because he’s Tiger Woods, he finally began bending the course to his will. Facing a near must-birdie on 8, Woods put his approach to a tap-in distance. Two holes later, he unleashed the finest shot of the week to date, a 208-yard iron that just cleared a bunker and nestled up to within three feet of the pin. One birdie putt later, and Woods was back in control … for a moment.

Tiger birdies the fifth hardest hole on the course today and is now one over par.

— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 8, 2022

That set off the golf equivalent of a heavyweight fight, as Woods and Augusta National traded earth-shaking body blows. Woods bogeyed the newly reconfigured 11th after putting his tee shot into the trees along the right side of the course, then bogeyed the 12th when his tee shot sailed into the azaleas behind the hole.

Woods thundered back with birdies at the 13th and 14th, courtesy of some deft chipping that kept him from needing to putt from much longer than arm’s-length distances. His birdie putt just burnt the edge of the 15th hole, and he walked to the 16th green to a standing ovation.

The 16th, site of one of Woods’ most iconic shots, once again rolled over; Woods’ tee shot trickled from the right side of the green down toward the pin, ending 11 feet from the cup. Woods’ birdie putt once again peered over the edge of the cup, and once again kept on going. Still, with two holes left, he stood at +1, four shots clear of the cut line. He closed out his round with two clutch pars, and walked off the 18th with the tender gait of a man trying not to crack ice.

"I haven't played a lot of tournaments of late, so it's been a little bit rusty," Woods smiled, "but I'm starting to come around. I felt good about how I fought back [Friday] … I could have easily kicked myself out of the tournament today, but I kept myself in it."

The cheers of the grateful gallery echoed off the white walls of the Augusta clubhouse. There have been moments in Woods’ post-scandal career when galleries have cheered more with encouragement than praise, more in honor of his past achievements than whatever struggling round he was posting at the time.

Not this time around. The patrons around Woods, standing half a dozen deep along every hole, roared with every shot, applauded him coming and going. There's no cheer like a Tiger cheer, and the gallery obliged from the first tee shot to the final par putt. Now, on a weekend when many multiple major winners are already heading home, Woods is sticking around for two more days.

"If you're within five or six on that back nine going into Sunday, you've got a chance," Woods said. "So I just need to get there."


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at [email protected]

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