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Tiger Woods Turning into 'Just Another Golfer,' Lamenting Loose Shots at the Masters

The five-time champion is healthy enough to get around Augusta, and to know that his Friday 74 could have been a bit better.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Fourteen months ago, Tiger Woods crashed the Genesis SUV he was driving so badly that he nearly lost his right leg. He finished Friday tied for 19th place at the Masters. But the rebound he wanted to talk about afterward was the one he didn’t quite make.

Woods bogeyed four of the first five holes. “I told [caddie Joe LaCava], ‘Hey, we got a lot of holes to play. It's going to be tough all day, so let's get it back to even par for the day somehow,” he said, then added wistfully, “If I [could] just stay at even par for the day, I thought that would have been a pretty good comeback. I didn't quite get there.”

He finished the day at 74, a day after shooting 71. Woods, 46, can barely walk the course, but he sits four strokes back of second place. He began the week as a medical marvel; now he is just another golfer, stewing about a few missed shots.

Xander Schauffele (No. 10 in the world; finished 7 over par) missed the cut. So did Sam Burns (No. 11; 5 over), Abraham Ancer (No. 15; 7 over), Brooks Koepka (No. 17; 6 over), Jordan Spieth (No. 18; 6 over) and Bryson DeChambeau (No. 19; 12 over). Woods, ranked No. 973, has not missed a cut here as a professional.

“I don't show up to an event unless I think I can win it,” he said on Tuesday.

It was a ridiculous suggestion. He already struggles with a fused back that compromises both his golf game and his quality of life. Now he has added leg injuries so profound that Nike has not been able to make shoes supportive enough for him. Last week, he played the nine-hole par-3 course with his son, Charlie, and an 18-hole practice round with Justin Thomas. Then Woods played nine practice holes on Monday and nine more on Tuesday, plus a competitive round each on Thursday and Friday. He said on Friday that it had been “years” since he had put together such an active stretch.

And perhaps most astonishingly of all, he said all that time off has made him lose some of his legendary feel for the game. But it is coming back.

“I don't have to think so much about what I need to do,” he said. “I can just get up there and feel it and play using my hands again instead of just kind of thinking, 'OK I need to do this, this, this to hit this shot.' Normally I just see it, feel it, go hit my number. I haven't played a lot of tournaments of late, so it's been a little bit rusty, but I'm starting to come around.”

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And yet here he was on Friday, staying not just above the cut line but in the mix, despite a cold, blustery afternoon.

“It was windy,” he said. “It was swirling. Balls were oscillating on the greens. We got a couple of bad gusts. I hit a couple of bad shots. I hit a decent shot at 4 that ended up and down in a divot, and it was just like — there were so many things that were not going my way. It was partly the conditions and partly me.”

He caught a few good breaks, too. His tee shot on No. 12 landed in the azalea bushes before bouncing down into the bunker, giving him an easier chip. His tee shot on 13 struck the pine straw but rolled onto the fairway, then he hit his approach so far to the right that it missed the green — and also Rae's creek. (Hideki Matsuyama, in the next group, hit almost the same shot and sent the ball directly into the water.) Woods looked amused as he strode up the fairway. He made birdie.

Each saved stroke mattered, of course, because this is golf, but they may all have mattered more to Woods than to anyone else: Finishing at two-over would have dropped him into a 15-way tie for 23rd, and as the last one in he would have been first out on Saturday, at 11:30 a.m. Instead he will go off at 1 p.m.

He can spend that time sleeping, or in an ice bath, or doing whatever it takes to reduce the swelling in a leg so full of metal he must set off magnetometers.

“My team has done a hell of a job getting me ready,” he said. “After I go ahead and break [my body] out there, they go ahead and repair it at night. … I'm good at breaking it. They're good at fixing it.”

He’s great at playing on it, even now.

More Coverage from Round 2 at The Masters

- Scottie Scheffler Leads on Fun Day for Few
- Schwartzel Summons Old Masters Vibes to Contend
- Tiger Defies the Odds to Make the Cut Once Again
- Amen Corner was a survival test and not everyone did
- Tiger 'just another golfer' expecting more now
- The most compelling Tea Olive in Augusta