APTOPIX Masters Golf

Tiger Woods and caddie Lance Bennett shield their faces form blowing sand on the 18th hole Friday during the second round of the Masters in Augusta, Ga. Woods shot an even-par 72 after completing a 1-over 73 in the first round earlier Friday. Ashley Landis/Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. — A howling gust – the kind that created havoc at Augusta National all day long – struck the 18th green just as Tiger Woods was lining up yet another testy putt. Fine particles of sand stirred from the pearl-white bunkers, whipping across the slick green surface.

One caddie’s hat was blown off. Woods turned away quickly, avoiding a potentially painful assault on his eyes.

Not to worry.

It was just a windy respite on the way to another bit of Masters history Friday.

When the breeze subsided just enough to look again, Woods rolled in a 5-foot putt to cap an even-par 72 that ensured he would make the cut for a record 24th time in a row.

Of course, his sights were fixated on a far greater goal – a record-tying sixth green jacket.


Woods broke the cut record he shared with three-time champion Gary Player, who advanced to the weekend 23 straight times beginning in 1959, and 1992 winner Fred Couples, whose streak lasted until 2007.

“It means I have a chance going into the weekend,” said Woods, whose even-par 72 left him 1 over through 36 holes. “I’m here. I have a chance to win the golf tournament. I don’t know if they’re all going to finish today, but I’m done. I got my two rounds in. Just need some food and some caffeine, and I’ll be good to go.”

It was a grueling day for the five-time Masters champion, even more so considering the 48-year-old has endured numerous injuries, countless surgeries and a devastating car wreck that nearly cost him his right leg.

Woods was back at the course before sunrise to finish up the final five holes of his opening round, which was cut short by darkness after storms Thursday morning delayed the start of the tournament by 2 1/2 hours.

He made a couple of bogeys to complete a 73, then had less than an hour to rest up for another 18 holes.

Remarkably, he played just one less hole Friday than his competitive total through the first three months of the year, his patched-up body no longer capable of handling a regular schedule of events.


Even with such limited preparation, there’s something about Augusta National that always brings out the best in Woods.

“Yeah, I’m tired. I’ve been out for a while, competing, grinding. It’s been a long 23 holes, a long day,” he conceded. “But Lance (Bennett, his caddie) and I really did some good fighting today, and we’ve got a chance.”

With the crowd around the 18th green roaring like it was a Sunday, Woods’ steely demeanor morphed into a huge smile as soon as the round was done. He hugged playing partner Jason Day, and gave another big squeeze to Bennett before a triumphant stroll to the clubhouse, the patrons lining the ropes four and five deep to applaud his effort.

“It was awesome,” said Max Homa, who rounded out the threesome with Woods and Day. “It really is a dream to get to play with him here. I’ve been saying, I always wanted to just watch him hit iron shots around here, and I was right up next to him. It was really cool. His short game was so good. I don’t think I can explain how good some of the chip shots he hit today were.”

Homa was in the thick of contention, just one shot off the lead when he finished, but he was glad to cede the spotlight to Woods.

“He’s special,” Homa said. “We had a really quick turnaround, and if I was feeling tired and awful, I imagine he was feeling even worse.”


Homa was impressed as much as anything by the way Woods maintained his cool on the 18th green when the sand went flying in gusts approaching 40 mph for the second day in a row.

“We had sandblasts for 45 seconds, and I turned around five times so I didn’t get crushed in the face, and he’s standing there like a statue and then poured it right in the middle,” Homa said. “All the cliches you hear about him and all the old stories about how he will grind it out, it was fun to see that in person.”

Indeed, Woods had to do all sorts of scrambling to compensate for one wayward approach shot after another. He kept pulling off nifty chips and clutch putts to keep his score safely above the cut line.

“I was forced to get up-and-down a few times today, and I was able to do that,” Woods said. “A lot of those chip shots, I was able to get up-and-down because I left it in the perfect spot, and that’s understanding how to play this golf course. … Most of the up-and-downs, I was in a perfect spot.”

Woods went through a stretch of six holes before the turn where he made nothing but birdies or bogeys, but he settled things a bit on the back nine with a single bogey at the 14th – where his approach from 150 yards sailed into the gallery behind the green – and a two-putt birdie at the par-5 15th after clearing the pond with two booming shots.

Woods heads into the weekend with a daunting deficit to the leaders, but he still thinks he has a chance to equal Jack Nicklaus’ record of six green jackets.

“I’m right there,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is going to run off and hide right now, but it’s really bunched. The way the ball is moving on the greens, chip shots are being blown, it’s all you want in a golf course.”

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