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Dramatically, Woods' weekend plans include golf

Tiger Woods put together a dramatic rally on the back nine at Whistling Straits Friday, making three crucial birdies to make the cut for the 129th consecutive time. He's nine shots off the lead, but he's still got a shot.

HAVEN, Wis. (AP) -- Tiger Woods finally put together another dramatic rally on the back nine at a major. His prize wasn't a trophy or a jacket. The only thing at stake this time was a Saturday tee time.

Woods was in danger of missing the cut Friday when he made the turn at 3-over-par, two shots off the projected cut. But he birdied No. 13 and two of the final three holes for a 3-under 69 that pulled him to even-par 144 for the tournament.

He's nine shots off the pace and would have to play dramatically better this weekend to avoid matching his longest winless drought at 10 majors, but he did extend his streak to 129 consecutive cuts made.

That's a mark he cherishes more than his 331-week reign as the world's top-ranked golfer.

"Who cares about the No. 1 ranking? Yeah, it's great and all to be No. 1 in the world, but it's not the end of all things. What is pretty cool is being able to go out there and play that consistently, that hard for that long a period of time," Woods said.

"Because you're going to have your bad days -- you saw that today and yesterday. And you've got to somehow find it within yourself to get it done."

Did he ever.

Woods was 2-over when he approached the 16th hole, a par 5 known as "Endless Bite."

Needing to hit the fairway for any chance at all, and having struggled off the tee all day, Woods delivered his best of the week to set up a 6-iron into the green for a two-putt birdie that put him on the cut line.

He backed off his shot on the par-3 17th to check his line, played a safe shot to 25 feet and raised his arm as it disappeared for another birdie, lightly tapping his fist.

When he narrowly missed the 18th green, he allowed himself a smile ... perhaps knowing he at least would spend the weekend at Whistling Straits instead of wondering what in the world had happened.

Woods began his day at 3-over and nearly got back to even in just three holes. He birdied his first two but his putt for birdie came up six inches short on the par-3 third hole.

It would be another 14 holes before he got to even, receiving encouragement from the enormous gallery that also rooted hard for 36-hole co-leader Vijay Singh (68) and John Daly (76).

"They're excited," Woods said. "And respectful, which is real cool. And I love their enthusiasm. They were so respectful all the way around for all three of us. You definitely could feel them hoping I would actually make a decent swing and a decent putt."

Woods, whose putter abandoned him Thursday, was done in by his driver on the front nine Friday.

The trouble started on No. 2.

"Left! Left! Left!" implored Woods as his tee shot went into the right rough.

He pounded his driver into the ground on No. 9 when he hit the ball into the tall grass, and again on No. 10, when the rough claimed another shot.

On 10, he was short of the green, about 30 yards from the cup. He opened up the blade of his sand wedge and took a full swing, slipping the club under the ball to pop it straight up in the air. The slightest miss and it would be 40 feet long, but it landed 3 feet from the hole for par.

On 11, he went from the left rough to the right rough and had 10 feet for par. He made it.

A bogey on either hole and he would have been all but cooked.

"I had to somehow grind it out and hope that things would come around," Woods said. "And they did."

His 12-foot birdie putt on No. 12 rolled right, but he came right back and birdied the next hole from 5 feet. On 14, a 373-yard par 4 where he drove the green Thursday, he went for it again and had the distance but not the direction. The ball ended up in a deep greenside bunker. He blasted out long, then barely missed a 20-footer for birdie before tapping in for par.

His driver again betrayed him on 15, when he drove into a fairway bunker, then muscled an iron just short of the green on the 518-yard par-4 hole.

By then, the fans were cheering his every move.

When the trio had walked up to the first tee to start the round, Woods' playing partners got all the encouragement.

"Come on, John, 6-under today. You can do it!" a fan hollered at Daly, who was tied for last place after an opening-round 81.

"Vijay, tell 'em there's a new sheriff in town!" somebody shouted at Singh, who started at 5-under.

There was only applause for Woods.

After he whistled his tee shot into the ash-gray sky, a fan whooped, "Welcome back, Tiger!"

It's something he would be thrilled to hear again Saturday.

Copyright (c)2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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