published Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Birdie barrage ‘felt good,’ Woods says

AUGUSTA, Ga. — A familiar roar echoed at 6:16 Friday evening. Tiger Woods moved into the top 10 at the Masters and back on the leaderboard.

The four-time Masters champ was back in contention at Augusta National Golf Club.

“I’m right where I need to,” said Woods, who shot a 66 Friday and is three shots behind leader Rory McIlroy after 36 holes. “I’ve closed the gap, and hopefully tomorrow I can piece together another good round, stay patient and plod my way along.”

Woods did it by stringing birdies together and striking the ball as cleanly and crisply as he has in a long time. He made three consecutive birdies twice in an eight-hole stretch.

“It felt good,” Woods said. “It felt good to make some birdies and get it going coming in.”

After making bogey on No. 7 to fall to even par for the tournament, Woods played the final 11 holes Friday at 7 under. He has had second-round 66s three other times here. Each time he was wearing a green jacket two days later.

When he needed to invent something, Woods did. He made a clutch 10-footer for par on No. 11, and after his drive missed the fairway on No. 18 he muscled a high cut from the rough to within 15 feet of the hole and made the birdie putt.

“That was huge,” Woods said of his par-saver on No. 11. “It was a big putt to make to kind of keep it going right there.”

Mickelson confident

Defending champion Phil Mickelson is down on the leaderboard, but he believes he’s not out of contention.

Mickelson shot even par on Friday and is 2 under for the tournament, eight strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy.

“There’s a lot of golf left in this tournament and I’m going to be making a run at him and the other guys ahead of me here on Saturday,” said Mickelson, who countered four bogeys with four birdies, including three in a four-hole stretch around the turn.

Asked why he felt that he’d make a run, Mickelson said: “Three green jackets.”

Tough cuts

Martin Kaymer, the world’s top-ranked player, spent more than an hour on the practice green before Friday’s second round. The extra work paid off: Kaymer had 25 putts Friday, 10 fewer than his dreadful first-round showing.

The improvement was not enough to keep him in the Masters, though. The German shot an even-par 72 Friday after opening with a 78 to finish at 6 over. He has missed the cut in each of his four Masters.

Kaymer, who won last year’s PGA Championship, was far from the only marquee name that checked out early from Augusta. Three of last year’s major championship winners will not be in the weekend, and 11 past champions also headed home.

Defending U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell, who had a triple-bogey 6 on No. 12, and Louis Oosthuizen, last year’s British Open winner, missed the 145 cut line. Also missing the weekend were Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan and Retief Goosen, who was 4 under after his first four holes Thursday but finished at 4 over after two rounds.

Bubba Watson and Ernie Els flirted with the cut line before securing their spots in the weekend. Els made an eagle on No. 13 on his way to a 70 Friday that landed him on the number. Watson, a popular pretournament pick who has made double-bogey on No. 12 each day, made an eagle on No. 15 Friday to squeeze into the weekend by a shot.

“Thirty-five with seven feet of break,” Watson said of his eagle putt.









One amateur alive

Asian Amateur champion Hideki Matsuyama was the only one of six amateurs to make the cut. He shot 72-73 to make the cut on the line.

Lion Kim (148), David Chung (148), Peter Uihlein (149), Jin Jeong (150) and Nathan Smith (152) each missed the cut.

“The experience, the way these pros interact with the fans and just prepare for each round, their demeanor on the course, you can just learn so much,” said Kim, a senior at Michigan who won the U.S. Amateur Public Links last year.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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