By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
-- He came down the winding stairs in the clubhouse, took a right
and got ready to head to the first tee when … he found his
way partially blocked by two men -- in Green Jackets -- chatting.
Tiger Woods hesitated, saw a seam and slipped behind them, around
the sterling silver Augusta National trophy next to the landing and
he was off.
Not too long ago, everyone would have been watching. People
would have stopped talking, stepped back and cleared a path. Friday
afternoon, Tiger was just another player on his way to the tee.
Five-plus hours later? He had everyone talking. A second-round 66.
Second-best round of the day. Putts diving in the hole. A bit of
magic and just 26 putts; 7 under in his last 11 holes. Nine
birdies. Three shots back of leader Rory McIlroy and one back of
Jason Day going into the weekend. Suddenly, everyone is watching.
And now they’re wondering if the four-time Masters champion
can back it up. “I just kept staying patient,'' he said,
“I was trying to get to under par at the turn and piece
something together. Got hot.’’ Seriously hot. And that
included a save at the 11
hole when he hit an “awful” drive that
nicked the calf of Fox Sports International Senior Vice President
Jack Stanfield – “I kept walking,’’
Stanfield said. “Tiger never knew” – to a decent
second shot, a putt he hit from memory, not feel and a par save
that rode the wind straight into the hole. “I’m three
back,’’ he said, “I’ve played myself back
into the championship.’’ The key? He said his swing has
felt the best it has since he started working with Sean Foley, but
the keys? Putts and patience – give or take a major grimace
or two out there. “I think it’s how patient I
was,’’ he said. “ think that was the key.
We are in a major championship. You have to stay
patient.’’ He's tied with K.J. Choi, the man he played
four rounds with here last year. He's got former U.S. Open Geoff
Ogilvy and up-and-comer Alvaro Quiros right behind him. And
he’s got the kids – McIlroy, Day and Rickie
Fowler – right there with him, too. When reminded that his
win in 1997 was the inspiration that pushed McIlroy, Fowler and
Day -- ages 7, 8 and 9 years old, respectively, at the time
– to want to play here some day, Tiger shook his head and
chuckled. Yes, he felt old. “They’re the next
generation – and don’t forget Ryo
(Ishikawa),’’ Tiger said. “It’s good to see
them with this much enthusiasm. It's a whole crop of
guys that are that age. That generation is going to be a fun
one to watch and how it matures over the next 10, 15
years.’’ And in the next two days. He threw out another
low round at Pebble Beach nine months ago. A third-round 66 that
had everyone buzzing. An exclamation point on the 18th green
Saturday morning. A closing 75 that gave him a tie for fourth
behind eventual U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell. Will this be
another one step forward, two back? Another Pebble? A so-so weekend
like St. Andrews? Or is this it? A great followup to his closing 66
at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship? The
questions were flying. Can he keep this up?
"The whole idea was to peak for this, this event,'' he said. "We
try to peak four times a year, and it was nice to go through the
learning curve and some of the changes that Sean and I had to make
in the game. It was good and positive and here we are." Could
he feel the crowd?
"Absolutely. Absolutely,'' he said. "We definitely
could feel that. It was fun." Can he do it? "I'm just trying
to put myself in the mix come Sunday,'' he said. " It's irrelevant
who is there. My whole job is to get myself there with a
chance with nine holes to go." “We've got a long way to
go,’’ he said. “The forecast is supposed to get a
little bit warmer. The ball is going to start flying probably
a little bit. I saw the dots for tomorrow. There are
some good pins out there tomorrow. You know, we'll see what
they do on the greens; see if they firm them up or not.
“… I think this is, what, the lowest cut in Masters
history, isn't it? I mean, there's so many guys with a chance
to play themselves into the tournament tomorrow. “ He
grinned. He didn't have to say a word. We've seen it before. He's
ready to have, as he says, some fun.
here to view Woods’ scorecard