4/6/2018 10:54:12 PM

Tiger back in Masters hunt as Augusta National rips leaders

Tiger back in Masters hunt as Augusta National rips leaders

Augusta, United States: Tiger Woods began Friday's second round of the Masters with a bogey at Augusta National, which proved formidable in windy conditions as elite golfers struggled and humbled leaders packed together.

Woods, a four-time Masters champion, has been the star attraction in his return to major competition following spinal fusion and two top-five showings in tuneup events.

An opening 73 left him seven adrift, but adoring fans cheered him and stood 10 deep to catch a glimpse of the 14-time major champion, new crowds enjoying a "Tigermania" opportunity some thought might never come again.

While his last major title came at the 2008 US Open, early struggles for the leaders ensured his chance to contend as his second round began and fans dreamed he might this week close the gap on the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus.

Woods saw his approach roll off the first green and his chip barely held the putting surface. He then missed an 18-foot par putt and fell to 2-over for the tournament, five off the pace.

Augusta National had become a crucible for contenders in round two, no one able to pull away on a crowded leaderboard.

As Woods teed off, six players shared the lead at 3-under, including Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and American Matt Kuchar and four players yet to launch their second rounds -- Sweden's Henrik Stenson, Canada's Adam Hadwin and Americans Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

One stroke adrift were Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler -- who had faced Augusta's fury -- plus past Masters winner Zach Johnson of the United States and Australian Marc Leishman.

Even some past champions were humbled, three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson triple-bogeying the ninth to stand 1-over at the turn and past champ Fred Couples making triple bogey at 11 and on 1-over after 14.

Wiesberger, who opened with a 70, birdied the par-5 second and par-4 third but fell back with a birdie at the par-3 fourth.

Kuchar opened on 68 but took bogey at the fifth.

Three-time major winner Spieth, who led by two after shooting 6-under par 66 Thursday, started double bogey-bogey.

Reigning British Open champion Spieth sent his tee shot deep into the Georgia pines on both holes, didn't escape the trees on his second either time and left his third shy of the green twice, missing an 11-footer for bogey at the par-4 first and a 5-footer for par at the second.

Another bogey at seven dropped Spieth two off the pace.

Northern Ireland's McIlroy, who can complete a career Grand Slam by winning the Masters, opened with a three-putt bogey and added two birdies and two bogeys in the next five holes.

American Tony Finau, the first US PGA player of Tongan and Samoan descent, took bogeys at the first, sixth and 11th holes to stumble back to 1-under after an opening 68. He suffered a partial left ankle dislocation Wednesday when he landed awkwardly while celebrating an ace in the Masters Par-3 Contest.

China's Li Haotong, who shot 69 in his Masters debut, was six-over on Friday's front nine.

Spieth, McIlroy meltdowns 

Both McIlroy and Spieth have suffered notable Masters meltdowns with a green jacket seemingly in their grasp, Spieth in 2016 when leading by five shots with nine holes remaining only to endure an Amen Corner horror show and squander the title won by England's Danny Willett.

McIlroy, 28, saw his 2011 hopes of a wire-to-wire win vanish with a final-round 80. McIlroy went on to win his first major on his next try at the 2011 US Open.

Spieth's wire-to-wire victory in 2015 marked the only time since 1984 that a first-round Masters solo leader took the green jacket.

Garcia could miss cut 

Spain's Sergio Garcia, among the late starters, will likely miss the cut to the low 50 and ties plus anyone within 10 shots of the lead after an opening 81, the worst-ever round for a Masters defending champion.

Garcia plunked five balls in the water in shooting a 13 at the par-5 15th, the worst score ever on the hole and level with the worst on any hole in Masters history.

Garcia would be only the 10th defending champion to miss the Masters cut, the second in a row after Willett last year.

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