By Jeff Rude, Golfweek
AUGUSTA, Ga. – So much for momentum coming out of drought-ending, five-stroke victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. In the first half of this Masters, a sloppy Tiger Woods was roundly beaten, by six strokes, by a 48-year-old playing competitor who sports a pot belly and ponytail and drinks and smokes like the kind of lounge singer he resembles.
Hence we have the midway shock of this Masters. Looking so in control coming in after that commanding performance at Bay Hill, Woods has come unglued at Augusta National. A day after taking two penalty-stroke drops and missing six drives left in an opening 72, Woods lost a grip on both his ball-striking and putting, if not his emotions, in a second-round 75.
He has gone from tournament favorite to tournament carnival act. He was so out of sorts Friday that you barely recognized him at times.
If the Day 1 was about escaping, the second round was about a loose swing, poor putting and continued lost opportunities on the par-5 holes he used to dominate.
The mess left him in a tie for 40th place entering the weekend, eight shots behind co-leaders Fred Couples and Jason Dufner and needing a guardian-angel miracle, if not exorcism, to secure a fifth green jacket.
Still, though he might have a white towel on his bag, he wasn’t waving it in surrender.
“The tournament is not over,” Woods said. “I can do this. I’ve just got to be patient. Obviously I’ve got to cut that deficit down tomorrow and get off to a quick start on the front nine Sunday.”
History, though, is not on his side. Woods has never won a Masters when worse than fourth place after 36 holes. And the Masters has never had a winner who was worse than 25th place at the midpoint.
So far, the numbers and pictures aren’t pretty.
• The 75 was one stroke lower than his worst Masters round as a professional.
• He missed four putts from 6 feet or less and a couple more from a dozen feet in Round 2.
• He has birdied only one of the eight par 5s over two days, including an 0-for-4 shutout Friday. It was only the third time during his 68-round Masters career he didn’t birdie or eagle a par 5.
• He hit only seven greens in regulation.
• He birdied two of the first three holes but made five bogeys after that.
• He took another penalty drop, from the front hazard at 13, raising his two-day total to three.
• He dropped a club in disgust after flaring an approach shot to the right en route to bogey at 11.
• He blocked a 4-iron into the gallery on the far right at 15. As others yelled 'Fore!,' he chose some blue language. Then he deposited a lob shot into a bunker short.
• He dropped and kicked a 9-iron after blocking his tee shot into the right bunker while bogeying the par-3 16th.
• He took three putts from 35 feet at the ninth.
• He finished six strokes behind that elderly sidekick, Miguel Angel Jimenez, after missing shots left and right.
The man who used to own the back nine toured it in 37 and 38. He has but three birdies total on his last four back nines at Augusta National.
Two weeks ago, everyone seemed to scream, “He’s back!” Now he’s back into the kind of funk that underscored those 30 months of no PGA Tour victories.
“I think (short-game work) might have crept into my takeaway of my full swing, and unfortunately it’s just not quite consistent,” Woods said. “It’s not what it was at Bay Hill and prior tournaments. I get into streaks where it’s really good and then I lose it for a little bit. That’s obviously very frustrating.”
A 75 by Woods is one thing. A 75 here is another. Not only did he come here with his game and confidence restored, he came with a track record that didn’t hint at 75. Before Friday, he shot par or better in 18 of his last 19 rounds.
To hear him, chalk up the problems to old motor patterns. After each round, he said motions from his old swing under former coach Hank Haney have crept into his current action under instructor Sean Foley.
“I know what to do,” Woods said. “It’s just a matter of doing it. That’s the frustrating part because I’m still creeping into my old tendencies.”
Thing is, the round started beautifully. He birdied the first from 15 feet and the third from 5 and, at 2 under, looked like he would contend.
But then putting failed him. He missed a downhill 3-footer for par at the fourth and 5-footers at Nos. 8 and 9, for birdie and par, respectively. Then, after finally hitting an approach shot close, he missed a birdie putt from 6 feet at 14.
When he finished, he was asked how he felt.
“I feel hungry,” he said.
The reference could apply to more than food.
PHOTOS: Round 2 At The Masters