AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods had just double-bogeyed the first hole and then hit into the Lyme disease on the right side of No. 2. He was behind a bush that was behind a tree and in such deep thicket that he had to take a knee and an eight iron and hack his way back to daylight.
He should've dropped his left knee down also and offered up a prayer to the golfing gods. He needed it. One for his "friend" Phil Mickelson wouldn't have hurt either.
On moving day at Augusta National, Phil and Tiger didn't move much more than a lot of pine needles courtesy of errant drives. Woods gained two shots, Mickelson one as both finished at 4 under.
"We've still got a chance," said Tiger.
"I think a lot of things happen on Sunday at Augusta and I would never put it past [happening] again," Phil said.
Actually, not a lot happens at Augusta National on Sunday. Only once since 1990 has the champion come from outside the final pairing (Zach Johnson in 2007). Barring an Easter Sunday miracle, you can rule out either one of them climbing past nine golfers and earning another green jacket.
Phil and Tiger are done. They just aren't admitting it.
"I remember when [Jack] Nicklaus won in '86," Mickelson said. "He came back with a 65 and it didn't look like it was going to be enough. And not only was it enough, it won outright.
"I think that at this golf course funny things can happen and if you've got momentum on your side and you're making some birdies, you can make a lot of them," he continued. "But when it starts coming apart, it's hard to get it back. And it's easy to tumble."
Not that easy. Only twice in the 75-year history of the event has a seven-shot, 54-hole deficit been erased. In 1956, Jack Burke stormed back from eight down and in 1978, Gary Player from seven. That famed Nicklaus comeback was from just four strokes.
Mickelson's game plan is simple. He just needs "to shoot a 64 or 65" and hope everyone collapses. Sure, no problem.
Perhaps his dream is rooted in the fact that the leaderboard doesn't contain a single top 10 player. No doubt it's a rag-tag bunch up there.
Perry is 48 and has a chance of erasing Nicklaus' record as oldest champion (46). He credits his career revival to getting his children out of the house and off to college so he could work on his game again.
"This may be my last opportunity," he said.
Cabrera is best known for his nickname "El Pato" ("The Duck") and chain smoking his way past Woods to win the 2007 U.S. Open. Back then he called his cigarettes his "sports psychologist" and you'd think some tobacco would be good for the nerves this time too. Alas, he quit for good on July 24, 2007.
"Now I don't have a sports psychologist and I don't smoke," he said. He did promise to cook some barbeque Saturday night and sleep well, for what it's worth.
In third is Chad Campbell, sitting at 9 under, and so dull of a character that he says his favorite beverage is "water." The three players tied for sixth are Shingo Katayama, who is best known for his hat, Rory Sabbatini, who is best known for his mouth and Todd Hamilton, who is best known for winning the 2004 British Open, but has only made 38 of his last 100 cuts.
So these are the articles of Phil and Tiger's faith. Considering the competition, why not us?
The patrons will agree and will be treated to a dream Sunday pairing of the two, albeit with both tied for 10th. Still, at 1:35 p.m. ET, the throng surrounding them should be 10,000 strong.
As with everything at the Masters, this has happened before. Back in 1980, Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer made the Sunday loop together. Despite starting the day 15 and 16 shots, respectively, behind leader and eventual champion Seve Ballesteros, their gallery dwarfed all others, according to the book "Arnie and Jack: Palmer, Nicklaus and Golf's Greatest Rivalry."
"Everyone on the planet was following them," said Bobby Jones IV, the grandson of Augusta National's founder. "I don't care if they were in leg braces with seeing eye dogs, if Arnold and Jack showed up on the first tee it was going to be five thick the entire hole."
And so it'll be Sunday as the game's two most popular players will siphon off interest from the actual contenders as fans hold onto a dream that isn't coming true.
All you had to do was watch their uneven play Saturday to know it. It was so rough they actually expressed satisfaction on what they were able to accomplish, which wasn't nearly enough.
Woods spent the round hitting into pine groves, screaming "no" at his ball and kicking his feet in frustration. Leaving the 15th tee box he sported a slight limp, perhaps the remnants of his knee surgery last summer that knocked him out for six months.
He wound up birding that hole and then 17. He was so thrilled he tossed his ball to a 6-year-old boy in the gallery. "Hey buddy," Tiger said to little Hugh Arthur, "watch."
After saving par on 18, he actually gave a little fist pump. Seven back never felt so good. It was that kind of round.
"I fought my ass off today," Tiger said. "To start off that way and still shoot under par, I'm proud of it actually. I'm not too proud of my rounds, but this one is as hard as I fought."
Mickelson was back and forth all day. He was thrilled to par 18 after sending his tee shot into the woods and saving himself by hitting his approach over the scoreboard.
"I don't think I'm out of it by any means," he declared.
Actually, he is. And his buddy Woods. They need a miracle amid the masses. All eyes will be on them regardless.
Six groups later the Duck and the Old Man will decide who wins this thing.
- Augusta National