AUGUSTA, Ga. — At 11, he tossed his club and rolled his eyes. At 13, he examined his ball, plugged in the bank of a creek, and walked back to take a drop, his third penalty stroke of the Masters. At 15, he cussed, then yelled “Fore!” as his approach headed directly into the gallery. Then he dumped his next shot into the bunker.
And when he hit an errant tee shot at the par-3 16th, Tiger Woods not only dropped his club, but kicked it angrily.
“I think we can safely say Tiger has lost his game,” three-time Masters champ Nick Faldo said on the broadcast, “and his mind.”
The Woods who showed up Friday at Augusta National looked nothing like the Woods who won four Masters, nothing like the Woods who won convincingly two weeks ago at Bay Hill. He shot an all-over-the-place 75 to sit at 3 over par for the tournament, eight shots back of the lead shared by Fred Couples and Jason Dufner.
His erratic game would indicate he’s out of it. He said, afterward, he’s not.
“I’ve been around the block for a number of years, and I understand how to be patient,” Woods said. “I understand how to grind it out, and the tournament is not over. . . . I can do this. I’ve just got to be patient.”
That quality was in short supply for Woods Friday. His kick of the club at 16 – what could become the indelible image of his day — came after he sprayed a 9-iron well right.
“It’s a very easy golf shot,” he said. But he didn’t execute.
Only once has Woods shot a worse round at the Masters as a pro, his first-round 76 in 2003. His troubles were particularly apparent at Augusta’s four par 5s, which he has owned in the past. In 66 previous rounds at the Masters, Woods averaged more than two strokes under par per round on the par 5s — giving him a huge advantage on the field. But over the first two days, he made one birdie and seven pars on the par 5s, often having to scramble for par.
Friday, he closed his round with another scramble for par — fitting, because he has hit only 19 of 36 greens. He signed his scorecard, spoke briefly with reporters, then hopped on the back of a golf cart and headed directly to the range. At 7:35 p.m., he met his swing coach, Sean Foley. The sun was already below the tree line when he began work.
“I know what to do; it’s just a matter of doing it,” Woods said. “That’s the frustrating part, because I’m still creeping into my old tendencies. I’ve just got to stay patient with it and keep doing the reps and eventually it’ll become where it’s second nature.”
Australian Jason Day, who finished tied for second in his Masters debut in 2011, withdrew after seven holes Friday with an injured left ankle. . . .
World No. 1 Luke Donald flirted with missing the cut, shooting a 73 to enter the weekend 4 over. Though the field was to be cut to the low 44 scores and ties, 63 players were within 10 shots of the lead and thus advanced to the weekend — just one off the record 64, set in 1966.