He was better than good. Midway through the Masters, Woods is 6-under par and only one shot off the lead. It was obvious that he enjoyed the platitudes, too. He flashed a broad smile throughout the 200-yard walk from the 18th green to the scoring area.
Woods made a birdie on the 14th, and followed that with a strategically played birdie on the 15th, and shot a 4-under 68. He missed two other birdie chances, sliding an 8-footer to the right at No. 17 and leaving a 14-footer at No. 18 on the edge.
Wood, only six months removed from winning the Tour Championship and his 80th tournament, is now in the mix to win his 15th major title. After giving himself a chance at the British Open and PGA Championship last summer, he’s in contention again.
“The last two major championships, I’ve been right there,” Woods said. “I’ve been in the mix. … All of a sudden, here I am.”
The supportive crowd was out in full force and he provided plenty of fuel for a day loaded with Tiger Roars. After a three-putt bogey at No. 8 – the only one this week - Woods heightened the delight of the gallery at the ninth hole when he drained a 37-foot birdie putt. That bomb drew the largest reaction of the day from the Tiger fans, so intense that playing partner Haitong Lee put his fingers to his ears to feign discomfort.
Woods birdied the 11th hole and was in full attack mode when he hit his tee shot at the par-3 12th hole to within six feet. Woods had to wait 30-minute to try the putt when he course was cleared because of lightning in the area. His effort caught the left side of the cup and spun out.
The delay didn’t slow him down and he made two more birdies on the back nine and reintroduced himself as a weekend factor at Augusta for the first time since 2015.
“I feel like I played my way back into the tournament,” Woods said. “I was just very patient today, felt very good to be out there doing what I was doing.”