Tiger Woods finds himself in serious contention for his first major championship since 2008 after shooting a four-under 68 in the second round of the 2019 Masters tournament Friday at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
Woods, whose six under overall score leaves him in one shot off the lead in a tie for sixth place, tallied six birdies and two bogeys in Round 2. Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen are tied atop the leaderboard at seven under.
The four-time Masters champion captured his most recent green jacket in 2005.
You could make a reasonable argument that Woods could be entering the weekend as the clear-cut leader if his short- and medium-range putting were even average compared to his previously high standards.
The 43-year-old Stanford product has made a bad habit of missing makable putts in recent events, and it's been a major problem so far in the Masters. In particular, his failure to sink back-to-back birdie attempts on the 12th and 13th holes prevented him from making an ever bigger back-nine charge.
Woods said Tuesday he's no longer able to put himself through the long practice sessions from his prime, during which he'd work out the issues in his game, and that's a factor in his putting woes.
"The hardest part is I just can't practice like I used to," he told reporters. "My back gets sore. I just can't log the time that I used to, and that goes with every part of my game. ... I've worked on my putting, and when I have, I've putted well."
Nevertheless, it's jarring to see him miss putts that would have been considered gimmes while he was busy collecting his 14 major titles.
The situation is made more interesting by the fact that he made a series of long-range putts Friday to help him keep pace near the top of the leaderboard. His birdie putts on Nos. 9, 14 and 15 were perfectly read and made up for some of the short misses.
Tiger is still a legitimate threat heading into the weekend because the other facets of his game have been mostly solid. He appears to be more confident with the driver in his hands than he has at just about any other time since his successful comeback began in late 2017.
The biggest key over the next two days—beyond cleaning up his close-range work on the greens—will be taking better advantage of the par fives.
Woods played those four critical holes at even par Friday. He didn't give himself any good looks for eagle. Instead, he was mostly scrambling and forced to attempt mid-range looks for birdie at best, and he only converted one of them.
Yet, despite the putting concerns and the fact that he didn't capitalize on the par fives, he's put himself with many of golf's biggest names on a star-studded leaderboard through 36 holes.
That's reason for optimism for the greatest closer the sport's ever seen.