AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Tiger Woods made the largest logjam in Masters history look even bigger by making Augusta National sound as loud as ever.
Even on a Friday, in the rain.
Golf’s best worked their way to the top of the leaderboard at a Masters pregnant with possibilities. The first five-way tie for the lead after 36 holes at Augusta featured Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen.
All of them are major champions. Three have been No. 1 in the world.
Looming just as large was Woods, who atoned for missing two birdie chances inside 8 feet on the back nine with consecutive birdie putts from 30 feet that sent him to a 68 and left him one shot behind.
Woods was tied with Dustin Johnson, another major champion and world No. 1, along with Xander Schauffele and Masters newcomer Justin Harding of South Africa.
If that’s not enough, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas were very much in the mix.
Woods has gone 14 years since he last won the green jacket, 11 years since his last major and had five surgeries — four on his back, the other to rebuild his left knee.
But he feels he’s getting closer.
“The last three majors, I’ve been right there,” Woods said.
He briefly held the lead Sunday in the British Open. He chased Koepka to the finish line in the PGA Championship. And now he goes into the weekend one shot behind, the closest he has been to a lead going into the weekend at a major since the 2013 British Open at Muirfield.
But that’s not just anyone he’s trailing.
Molinari, the British Open champion who has shown he belongs among the elite in golf, had a 67 and was the first to reach 7-under 137. Day was right behind, coping with nagging soreness in his lower back with a 67 to match the Italian.
Koepka, the U.S. Open and PGA champion, began with a birdie to quickly take the lead, only to hit out of the pine straw, off a tree and into the creek to make double bogey on the par-5 second hole. He made two more bogeys before reaching the seventh hole, and then pulled himself together to salvage a 71.
Scott was the only player to reach 8 under with a 2-iron into 5 feet for eagle on the 15th, only to miss a 3-foot par putt on the 16th. It still added to a 68 for the Australian who won the Masters six years ago, and has gone three years since his last victory.
The only scare for Woods came on the 14th hole, when his drive went well left into the trees. The shot was pure, hooking around the pines to the green. On his quick walk to the fairway to see where the shot finished, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent rushing over to control the spectators behind Woods slipped on the rain-slickened grass and slid into Woods’ right leg.
Woods hopped out of the way, winced and repeatedly flexed his ankle, and then poured in another putt.
He didn’t show any trouble the rest of the way.
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