AUGUSTA, Ga. - For someone who began the week as the betting favorite among the legal parlors in London, Tiger Woods hasn’t made the bookmakers look very smart, fighting his swing, his putter, and his temper over the first two days at the Masters.
Woods failed to build on two early birdies Friday, steadily going the other way under an avalanche of bad shots and missed short putts. He shot a 3-over-par 75, his highest score at Augusta National Golf Club since a first-round 75 in 2004. At 3 over par, he’s tied for 40th.
“Didn’t quite have it today with my swing,’’ said Woods, who was tied for last in the field through two rounds in fairways hit (14 of 28). “I played the par-3s 3 over, didn’t play the par-5s good, either. I need to cut that back, play a good, solid round, and cut the deficit down.’’
He’ll start the third round eight shots behind.
Woods missed a short par putt at No. 4, plus two more short ones on Nos. 8-9 (he parred 8, bogeyed 9). Then his ball-striking showed signs of wobbling, and his confidence followed. Woods got away with a hooked drive on the 13th, pulled his second shot near the creek, took an unplayable penalty, and saved his par.
He pushed his second shot on the 15th into the gallery, dumped his third into the bunker, and saved par again. But a player who has feasted on Augusta National’s par-5 holes (he’s 134 under par over 68 Masters rounds) has only one par-5 birdie the first two rounds.
His worst moment may have come at the 16th tee, when he pushed his shot into the front right bunker. He dropped his club at the completion of his swing, turned away from his shot, and kicked the club off the tee.
The display prompted announcer Nick Faldo to remark, “I think we can safely say Tiger has lost his game . . . and his mind.’’
He’ll fight another day, but the fight for Woods appears to be internal, both mechanically and mentally.
A bright spot
Keegan Bradley said before the tournament that the shot he most looked forward to hitting in his first Masters was the tee shot to the par-3 12th hole. He’s been up to the challenge, and nearly took home some crystal for an eagle (or in this case, a hole in one).
Bradley made birdie at the 12th Thursday after hitting his approach to 4 feet. He did even better in the second round, almost making a hole-in-one. With the pin cut front left, Bradley’s tee shot landed a few feet behind the flag, spun back, and went right past the hole, stopping 3 feet away. Another birdie on No. 12, one of the rare highlights as he made nine bogeys and shot 77, his highest score in a PGA Tour event since a final-round 77 at last year’s Players Championship.
Bradley finished 36 holes at 4 over, but gets to play the weekend. Worcester native Scott Stallings was 3 under and tied for third at one point, but bogeyed three par-5s, shot 77, and is 3 over.
Hideki Matsuyama, Kelly Kraft, and Patrick Cantlay will battle for low amateur honors. It’s the first time three amateurs have made the cut since 2003.
Matsuyama, the Asian Amateur champion the past two years who tied for 27th at the Masters in 2011, had a second-round 74 and is 1 over through 36 holes.
Kraft, who beat Cantlay in last year’s US Amateur final, had 75 and is at 5 over, the same score as Cantlay, who also made the cut on the number after a 78.
Not advancing were British Amateur champion Bryden Macpherson (77-76), US Public Links winner Corbin Mills (74-81), and US Mid-Amateur champion Randal Lewis (81-78).
In a page straight from your local muni, the twosome of Martin Laird and Chez Reavie played through the threesome of Sean O’Hair, Scott Verplank, and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano on the par-3 fourth hole.
O’Hair, Verplank, and Fernandez-Castano were the first group of the day, and with Mark O’Meara withdrawing before the first round, Reavie and Laird were only a twosome in the second group. While walking to his drive on No. 3, O’Hair spotted a tournament official, and said, “We’re going to have this twosome on our backs all day. Can they play through? Can you send a rules official over?’’
So with O’Hair, Verplank, and Fernandez-Castano on the fourth green, they waved on Reavie and Laird, who passed them and completed their rounds in just a shade over four hours, with a two-hole gap.
No truth to the rumor that the threesome featuring Ben Crane and Kevin Na - not exactly known for their brisk pace of play - allowed multiple groups to play through.
Two and out
Among those missing the cut: Paul Casey, Kyle Stanley, Tom Watson, and K.J. Choi. Ryo Ishikawa, who received the only special exemption, also missed after rounds of 76-77 . . . Jason Day, who was 1 over on his round through seven holes and 5 over for the tournament, withdrew because of a left ankle injury. Day tied for second last year in his Masters debut . . . Henrik Stenson, one day after a quadruple-bogey 8 on the 18th hole cost him the lead, birdied No. 18 and shot his second straight 71. “I guess I’m the most-improved player on 18,’’ Stenson said . . . Verplank didn’t get off to the start he was looking for, taking seven putts on the first two holes. Faced with an uphill 70-footer on No. 1, he left it 40 feet short. His second putt ran 6 feet past the hole, the third putt slid 5 feet by, and he finally holed his fourth putt for a double bogey. Verplank then three-putted No. 2 for a bogey, and eventually shot 75 . . . Sandy Lyle’s 36-hole tally: 2 birdies, 17 pars, 13 bogeys, 3 double bogeys, 1 triple. His 86-78 left the 1988 Masters champion last among the 94 participants who completed two rounds . . . ESPN’s 2.3 rating for Thursday’s first round was up 10 percent from 2011.