AUGUSTA, Ga. — Teeing off in the second-to-last group Friday, Tiger Woods began the day at 2-under par and avoided the wet early-morning conditions at Augusta National. Though he got drenched later in the afternoon, that wasn’t enough to upend his back nine, which was just a few short putts close away from perfection to put him within a stroke of the tournament lead.
Playing with Jon Rahm and Haotong Li, Woods was inconsistent to start the day. He logged birdie on the par-3 No. 4, but then made his second bogey on No. 5 in two days. On the sixth hole, he redeemed himself with another par-3 birdie before bogeying No. 8. On No. 9 he logged a dramatic birdie with a long putt, putting him at 3-under par at the turn as the leaders’ scores pushed toward –7.
As the rest of the star-studded leaderboard fluctuated and Francesco Molinari rose to the top, Woods withstood a 28-minute weather delay at Amen Corner after a birdie on No. 11. Almost as soon as play resumed, the heavens opened, and Woods hit his tee shot left on No. 14 in a steady rain. That shot landed in the trees, just a few feet into the gallery. His ensuing shot was a thing of beauty, 159 yards to the left side of the green. What happened next was anything but: After Woods swung, patrons leaned forward almost immediately to check the trajectory of the ball—getting too close, in the process, to Woods. A security guard rushed forward to keep them back, slipping in the muck in his hurry. As he fell, he tripped the golfer, catching his right ankle.
Remarkably, Woods went on to sink a 28-foot minutes later to pull him to 5-under, and he’d birdie the next hole, too, this time with a 30-footer. With a chance to grab a share of the lead on No. 17, he missed a nine-foot birdie putt by a fraction of an inch, and Woods knew the implication: On No. 18 he’d miss another putt—this one from 14 feet—and save par, finishing with a 68, and at –6 for the tournament.