Two strokes often make the difference between glory and failure at Augusta National. Tiger Woods has some work to do in the final round of the Masters Sunday, but he won’t let two crucial strokes define his finish.
Woods put together a masterful string of 14 holes heading into No. 15 during his second round on Friday. With a good scoring opportunity on what looked to be a perfect approach shot, the golf gods intervened with a cruel twist of fate (as Mitch Levy of Sports Radio KJR pointed out with this tweet):
mitch levy @kjrmitch
The unthinkable for Tiger... Off the flag stick and into the water at 15th. Wow.2013-4-12 22:41:09
Had his approach shot not struck the pin, Woods was likely to be in good position for a makeable putt and a ton of momentum. Instead, he was forced to take a penalty and try again from the same spot.
Or at least that’s what was supposed to happen.
The world’s No. 1 golfer instead dropped two yards behind the location of his initial approach shot—a rules violation that would ordinarily call for disqualification from the event.
Because his drop was initially deemed appropriate, Woods continued his round without additional penalties, finishing the day in tremendous position for a weekend push for the green jacket.
Upon further review (and comments Woods himself made of the situation), the rules violation resulted in an additional two-stroke penalty that would cripple most golfers’ chances of climbing back atop the leaderboard (per CBSSports.com).
Tiger isn’t most golfers.
Woods came roaring back with a 70 on Saturday, moving to within four shots of the lead at three under. By the completion of Saturday’s round, Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera were at seven under with a dangerous competitor still in reach.
While the best golfer on the planet typically thrives on Sunday, he’s never won a major when trailing heading into the final round (per Rotoworld). He’s also facing an uphill battle on a course with a high Saturday scoring average and very few prime spots from making a late-round move.
Still, Tiger is playing some of the best golf of his career this year, aided by a new swing and a new sense of focus. With three wins in his five tour events prior to that Masters, he has once again proved his dominance—and his ability to overcome any obstacle to win.
It may not take a gaudy score to win the Masters this year, either. Augusta was playing tremendously hard on Saturday, yielding just six eagles on the day. If Sunday’s pin locations and course conditions don’t get any easier, another 70 could bring Woods close enough to the lead to watch the top of the leaderboard come back to him.
Friday’s fiasco resulted in what may have been up to four lost strokes, yet Tiger is still in serious contention with 18 holes to play. He’ll be donning his usual red shirt and ice cold demeanor, and the rest of the field should be on alert.
We’ve grown accustomed to miraculous finishes from the best golfer on the planet, and there’s no reason to doubt him on Sunday. If he can overcome the adversity he faced following Friday’s debacle, he can overcome a four-stroke disadvantage in the final round at the Masters.