Tiger Woods in vintage sort as he throws down Masters gauntlet

Tiger Woods set himself in prime position to challenge for a fifth Green Jacket at the Masters

From within inches of disaster to touching distance of the Masters lead. Even taking into account the extraordinary circumstances which attach themselves to Tiger Woods as routine, Friday afternoon at Augusta National witnessed astounding scenes.

Given this venue’s propensity for strictness, the punishment that will befall the security guard who caught Woods’s right ankle does probably not bear thinking about. On a wet surface and when seeking to contain crowds in rough by the 14 th hole, the policeman slipped to the extent where he flew immediately into the 14 -times major champion. Woods limped, a watching world held its breath but within yards there was a smile. The 43 -year-old was to convert a 25 ft birdie putt minutes later, emphasising there had been no lasting damage.

As Woods holed out again from long scope at the 15 th Augusta’s belief that a fifth Green Jacket could adorn the returning hero was at an all-time high. Woods’s 68 ensured he will begin day three at six under par, one adrift of Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen. But for a series of missed opportunities on the greens, Woods would be firmly in command.

White boiler suit to Green Jacket would be quite a fashion statement. For Molinari it is also a realistic goal. Thirteen years have passed since he donned Augusta National’s famous caddie gear to carry the container of his brother, Edoardo, in the Masters. The pair lasted 36 holes, with the reigning US amateur champion missing the cut comprehensively. Major Fridays have an altogether different feeling for Francesco now.

The Italian has fallen only one shot in 36 holes. And still Molinari’s credentials are commonly underplayed. A Masters podcast presenter on Friday morning claimed the 36 -year-old had to be a ” dark horse” to persist here. It took an incandescent caller from New York to apply sanity; how a reigning Open champ, Ryder Cup hero and winner of a PGA Tour event last month would be in any way under the radar eludes all( non American) logic.

Francesco Molinari makes from a bunker on the second hole on his route to a share of the lead. Photo: Matt Slocum/ AP

” There’s obviously loads of great players in golf right now ,” Molinari said.” I guess I’m getting the attention that I deserve and it’s not something that I seek or that I want desperately. I’m happy to go about my business and keep playing good golf .”

If Molinari’s position is no shock- to anyone outside podcast land, anyway- the same cannot be said for Day. The Australian’s latest back trauma, caused when leaning down to kiss his young daughter, led to several bouts of physiotherapy therapy during round one. Day was lying on Augusta’s hallowed turf with legs in all manner of positions not worth trying at home.

Day pieced together a Friday 67 to match Molinari’s 137 strokes. Day played his closing six pits in three under. Attention thereafter, inevitably, turned towards fitness.” I have combated back issues this whole year ,” said Day.” I kind of know the protocol of getting myself into game mode .” Scott held the leading at eight under with a wonderful eagle at the 15 th after players took to the course from a 30 -minute weather delay but immediately confessed it by missing from 4ft one pit later.

Koepka handed back what had been a first-round tie at the leaderboard summit after taking seven at thepar-five 2nd. He duly recovered, as one would expect from a three-time major champ, to score a 71. Oosthuizen’s Friday involved only 66 shots.

Ian Poulter has laughter when pointing out the Masters chances of a 43 -year-old- Woods- have been widely quoted. At the same age, and enjoying an ongoing career renaissance, Poulter has absolutely nothing to lose here. The Englishman’s 36 -hole aggregate is minus five.

Dustin Johnson reached halfway at six under, politenes of a 70, where he has Woods, Xander Schauffele and the debutant Justin Harding for company.

Matt Kuchar’s previously clean-cut reputation has taken a battering after disputes over payment to a Mexican caddie and, more recently, a match play incident with Sergio Garcia. Presumably Masters victory would win back some hearts and intellects; Kuchar is four under after a second round of 69.

Bryson DeChambeau, who held the 18 -hole lead alongside Koepka, suffered a back-nine implosion. The 25 -year-old signed for a 75, which slid him back to three under.

Bernhard Langer eased inside the cut line at minus one, having added a 72 to Thursday’s 71. The 61 -year-old provided a non-cliched answer when asking whether course and distance specialism was key to his recurring Masters longevity.

” Experience helps but it doesn’t make up for reaching five more clubs into every green than somebody else ,” Langer said.” I’m hitting four irons, they’re hitting nine irons. I would rather hit nine irons and have a little less experience .”

Still, the champion of 1985 and 1993 can enjoy his weekend. Not so Justin Rose, who was among those to head home early. Briefly, and freakishly, it was thought the same would transpire for Woods. Fear not, golfing world.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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