Tiger Woods had escaped some tight situations before, but nothing like the one in the second round. He’d just hit a low punch shot out of the trees at No. 14 and as he was walking toward the fairway, down a rain-slick slope, a security officer trying to keep the gallery back slipped on the wet grass and slid into his lower right leg. Woods didn’t go down, but he limped a bit and flexed his ankle. “I’m fine,” Woods said. “It’s all good. Accidents happen, and move on.”
He turned the potential disaster into a birdie, and ended the day just a stroke out of the biggest second-round tie for the lead ever in the Masters.
Fully five players were tied at seven-under 137 — Francesco Molinari, with a 67, Jason Day (67), Brooks Koepka (71), Adam Scott (68) and Louis Oosthuizen (66). Then a shot behind came Woods, Dustin Johnson (70), Justin Harding (69) and Xander Schauffele (65).
“This is really stacked,” said Scott, the 2013 Masters champion. “I think it’s going to be an incredible weekend … As a golf fan, I like it. As a player, I’d rather be like six in front or something.”
Scott, who hadn’t won in three years, eagled the par-five 15th on a two iron to five feet and was the only player to get to eight under. But he bogeyed the par-three 16th, missing his par from three feet.
Looking forward to third-round strategy? Oosthuizen cautioned prudent play. “Not try too much and play yourself out of the tournament,” he said. “You just want to have a decent round and then Sunday there are a lot of holes where you want to be very aggressive.”
Day considered himself fortunate that he could even get through two rounds with his painful back. He recounted bending to kiss his little daughter just before his tee time in the first round, then barely making it to the tee. And then on the way between holes telling his caddie, “Luke, I said, ‘If this stays the same pain as it was on the putting green, I’ll probably end up withdrawing.” But he hung on for a courageous 67, matching Molinari, the 2018 Open champion. Molinari worked Augusta National from the ground up when he caddied for his older brother, Edoardo, the 2005 U.S. Amateur champion, in the 2006 Masters. Said Molinari, the only one of the top nine to go bogey-free in the round: “I know that I need to keep doing what I do … and see if anyone can beat me.”
Koepka twitted himself on the wild start to his 71. After a birdie at No. 1: “Just kind of No. 2 — I don’t know what happened there. Pulled a drive and hit it a little off the toe and went in the trees. But stayed in the trees for a while and made seven.” Someone noted that Jack Nicklaus warned against going left at No. 2.
“What’s down there?” a writer asked. “There’s a creek,” Koepka said. “Were you in the creek?” “No. I was in the pine straw, then hit the tree, bounced on the cart path, went all the way down into the hazard … and then you know, took a drop, punched out and hit on the green and two putted.”
Dustin Johnson, World No. 2, was doing an impressive job of bronco-busting, pulling his fractious colt of a game back into line. He hit only six of the 14 driving fairways and nine greens in the second round, bogeyed just once and birdied three times for that 70, a shot out of the logjam lead.
Rory McIlroy, after that six-bogey 73 in the first round, regrouped for a fragmented 71 that included two birdies, an eagle and three bogeys and trailed by seven shots, but also by 35 players. “To be here on the weekend and only be seven back,” McIlroy said, “I’m really pleased.”
Woods was one under on the front after alternating three birdies and two bogeys over six holes from No. 4. Coming in, he birdied the 11th, then holed the 30-footers at 14 and 15. He had a heart-stopping 68 that shattered the soft Georgia air. He missed two eight-footers for birdie on the back nine, but rolled in back-to-back 30-footers for birdies at 14 and 15. “It feels like I played my own way back into the tournament,” Woods said. “I was just very patient today, felt very good.”
The second round came to a close with Woods just one stroke out of the lead — the closest after 36 holes in a major since the 2013 Open Championship. “The last three majors,” Woods said, feeling the quickening, “I’ve been right there.”
Second-round leaders: Francesco Molinari 67–137, Jason Day 67–137, Brooks Koepka 71–137, Adam Scott 68–137, Louis Oosthuizen 66–137, Dustin Johnson 70–138, Justin Harding 69–138, Xander Schauffele 65–138, Tiger Woods 68–138.