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Souhan: Tiger Woods works overtime to set Masters record

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods is a retired professional golfer, whether he admits it or not. He has completed four rounds in a tournament once in the last 14 months, and he spent the first two rounds of the Masters this week looking like the 48-year-old he is, with his litany of injuries and a chronic limp.

"The guy has barely played at all in the last calendar year, and he's 1-over," said amateur Stewart Hagestad. "That's alien stuff. That's unbelievable."

Friday, Woods was like a gray-haired pitcher in an old-timers game who throws 95-mph fastballs.

He survived high winds on Thursday night, was unable to finish his first round at the Masters because of a rain delay, and had to be back at Augusta National early the next morning.

After a warmup session early Friday, Woods finished his first round and had 48 minutes until his second-round tee time.

So, what does a 48-year-old legend with a litany of aches and a fused right ankle do when given a chance for a brief rest?

Practice.

Woods went to the driving range and hit a variety of shots, then walked to the putting green near the first tee. He would take his stance, then drop the ball from his nose to the ground, to ensure that his eyes were over the ball when he made his stroke.

Then he limped to the first tee box, finished playing his 23 holes for the day, and broke another record.

Woods shot an even-par 72 in the second round to remain at 1-over, making the cut at the Masters for the 24th consecutive time, surpassing the record he had shared with Gary Player and Fred Couples. "I'm going to text Freddie and give him a little needle," Woods said.

Masters leaderboard

Before the tournament began, Woods said he believed he would win. With his limited schedule, he could have been asked why he was bothering to play.

The truth of his capabilities remains firmly in the middle of those two extremes. Despite having played four full rounds in just one professional tournament since February of 2023, Woods produced a master class on how to navigate a difficult course.

"It means I have a chance going into the weekend," Woods said. "I'm here. I have a chance to win the golf tournament. I got my two rounds in. Just need some food and some caffeine, and I'll be good to go."

Any jokes about him needing Metamucil can wait.

"It really is a dream to get to play with him here," said Max Homa. "I've been saying I always wanted to just watch him hit iron shots around here, and I was right up next to him. It was really cool.

"His short game was so good. I don't think I can explain how good some of the chip shots he hit today were. He's special. We had a really quick turnaround, and if I was feeling tired and awful, I imagine he was feeling even worse."

The wind was almost unmanageable. "On 18, we had sandblasts for 45 seconds, and I turned around five times so I don't get crushed in the face, and he's standing there like a statue and poured it right in the middle."

Last year, Woods made the cut by shooting a 74 and 73, then withdrew during the third round because he had trouble walking the course.

Somehow, one year later, Woods will be eyeing the leaderboard instead of flight plans.

"All the clichés you hear, all the old stories about how he will grind it out, it was fun to see that in person," Homa said.

On the ninth hole, Woods pulled his drive into the trees on the left, hooked a shot into the crowd to the right front of the green, pitched the ball above the hole, then sank a slippery putt to save par.

"A lot of those chip shots I was able to get up and down because I left it in the perfect spot," Woods said. "That's understanding how to play this golf course."

His head and hands have aged well.