Woods of old re-emerges in Masters

  • By Chip Towers The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Saturday, April 11, 2015 4:43pm
  • SportsSports

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods looked like the Tiger Woods of old at the Masters on Saturday. Never mind that there was a back nine worth of birdies between him and the tournament leader.

Woods once again sported some the largest followings at Augusta National Golf Club and he gave them plenty to roar about Saturday afternoon. The four-time champion came in cold with a world ranking of 111 after not playing for weeks due to injuries. But he managed to put that all aside on Saturday to put together a birdie-filled round of 68.

He heads into Sunday’s final round in a tie for sixth. A bogey on his 18th hole and Jordan Spieth’s continued dominance kept it from being the stuff of Masters lore.

But considering from whence he came, it was vintage Tiger.

“I think what I’ve done all week has been pretty good,” Woods said immediately after his round. “Coming from where I came from and having to change my release pattern, that was tough. People have no idea how tough it was to do that. To come back here and play a major championship and be in the mix — granted, I’ve got to shoot a super low one tomorrow — but at least I’ve given myself a chance going into tomorrow.”

Woods put a charge into the crowd early in the day when he birdied three of his first four holes and went out in 4-under. But Woods and everybody who was following him knows it could have been something much more.

He “stuffed it” on approaches at both No. 6 and 7 only to miss short putts, and he missed the green after a good drive at 9 but managed to save par.

“Ah, man, it could have been something seriously low today,” Woods said. “I had it really rolling. … All-in-all if you look at it, it probably should have been about two shots better.”

Woods went quietly into the back nine but lit the place aflame again on the last leg of Amen Corner, the par-5, 13th. At first it was for all the wrong reasons.

Woods snap-hooked his tee shot left to the wrong side Rae’s Creek. He was lucky to have his ball knocked down by one of the stately pines that jut up from the steep, azalea-strewn hillside. He was left with a favorable lie in the pinestraw, but 275 yards from the flag.

Woods punched a hook to the middle of the fairway, then hit a 173-yard approach 15 feet left of the pin. When he rolled in that putt, spectators witnessed the trademark fist pump that has been missing from Woods for a good while.

“It was nice seeing Sergio (Garcia) there,” Woods said. “He hit a nice shot from over the green and I saw how much it broke at the end. So I gave it probably another inch and a half of break and I poured it in there.”

But Woods gave the fortunate stroke with a bogey at 14 and also canceled out a birdie at 15 with a bogey at 18. But with Spieth’s antics at the end of his round, he can at least see his name on the same scoreboard.

“My goal was to get as close as I could to 10 (under par) if not to 10,” Woods said. “Just in case Jordan went off a little bit, at least I was within range. … I’m going to have to put together a really special round of golf tomorrow. You just never know. You saw what happened in ’96. You saw what happened with Rory (McIlroy) in ’11. You just never know around this golf course. Anything can happen.”

That Garcia and Woods were playing together was a notable sidebar to the round. The two hadn’t played together since their war of words that started at The Players Championship in 2013. A disagreement what happened on the second hole reportedly resulted in Garcia hitting a distracted shot on the way to a bogey.

Woods came out of it calling Garcia a whiner and Garcia charged Woods with being a liar and a phony. There was also a fried chicken remark from Garcia that drew some criticism.

Garcia approached Woods for a handshake before they teed off on No. 1 on Saturday. But there was little interaction once the round began. Woods didn’t address the pairing afterward, while Garcia, who shot 71, did.

“Mainly it was saying ‘good shot’ and ‘well done’ and ‘good putt’ and ‘good birdie’ and things like that,” Garcia said. “So, just the normal stuff. But it was very good. I thought it was, I thought we were both very good. It was the way it should be.”

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