AUGUSTA, Ga. April 6 (Reuters) - Tiger Woods’ return to the U.S. Masters may not be going as spectacularly as his army of supporters had hoped but the 14-times major winner’s comeback continued to make steady progress when the American squeaked in under the cut-line on Friday.
After Woods tuned up for his first Augusta visit since 2015 with a pair of top-five finishes, expectations sky-rocketed for the 42-year-old, despite a recent spinal fusion operation that was described as nothing less than a surgical ‘Hail Mary’.
Those results, combined with a return to an iconic venue where he has collected 11 top-five finishes including four Green Jackets, had Las Vegas bookmakers installing Woods as one of the leading contenders.
However, Woods’ play through two rounds of the year’s first major has been more workmanlike than magical, the former world number one doing just enough to forge a three-over-par 75 on Friday to slip in under the five-over cut-line by one shot.
“Six months ago I didn’t know if I’d be playing golf,” Woods told reporters. “Forget playing at the (PGA) Tour level, I didn’t know if I’d ever be playing again.
“But it’s incredible to have the opportunity again, to still come out here and play this golf course.
“Now I know I’m on the weekend.”
Plagued by back issues for years, Woods had not contested a major since the 2015 PGA Championships and his scores over the first two days have reminded everyone that patience will be equally as important as results in the coming months.
While Woods, searching for a first major triumph since 2008, continues to shake off years of competitive rust, his “where there’s will, there’s a way to win” attitude remains intact.
Sitting at four-over, Woods will start Saturday’s third round 13 shots adrift of halfway leader Patrick Reed, who rocketed to the top of the leaderboard with a six-under 66.
Even though the prospect of overturning the deficit seems insurmountable, Woods is refusing to wave the white flag just yet.
“I would have done it (shoot in the 60s) the first two days, if I would have quit playing after 16 (holes),” he said. “I would have had it.
“Let’s see if we can get 18 holes tomorrow (Saturday).
“Even though I’m a lot behind, if I play a special weekend, shoot two rounds in the mid 60s, you never know.” (Editing by John O’Brien)