Wincing Tiger Woods endures his marathon to make Masters history

<span>Tiger Woods hit 72 on his second round at Augusta on Friday.</span><span>Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters</span>
Tiger Woods hit 72 on his second round at Augusta on Friday.Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

No one around the 14th at Augusta National on Friday morning seemed to have had too much sleep. There was Caroline, 56, who had been kept awake by her knee. She had twisted it by slipping on a set of steps last week, and it was still aching after all the walking she’d done on the opening day. And there was Josh, 15, who had been so excited he’d woken up two hours before his family needed to leave for the course. And there was Simon, 31, who had a skinful the previous evening, and had been dragged out of bed by his housemates.

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And there were a few thousand others, too. At 48, Tiger Woods still draws a gallery three times the size of anyone else here. The sun was just up above the pines, the sky was clear and the day stretched ahead like an open road. So however restless they felt about it the moment they woke, they, and everyone else, enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing that, at this particular moment, there was nowhere else in the world they would rather have been than where they were: beside the tee box watching Woods get ready to hit his first shot of the second day of the 88th Masters.

Woods may have been the only person in the vicinity who didn’t seem to be enjoying the morning. He certainly wasn’t grinning. He’d probably had even less sleep than anyone, and had the dead-set look of a man facing a hard day’s grind.

It had been 8 o’clock when he’d broken off his round the previous evening. He was one under through 13 at the time, despite playing in a wind which, he said afterwards, had made it “one of the most tricky days that I’ve ever been a part of” here. He had five holes left to play, which meant he had 23 to get through in the next eight hours. He’d only played 24 altogether since the beginning of December, at the Genesis Invitational, and he wound up being driven off the course in a golf cart and withdrawing from the tournament after the last six of them.

Woods gives the impression he has a hard task getting up and down his stairs these days, let alone getting up, down and around 18 here at Augusta. “I hurt every day,” he said earlier this week, “I ache every day.” It almost makes you wonder why he’s putting himself through it, but then you might as well go ask the shark why it swims, or the scorpion why it stings. “I love golf,” he said on Tuesday, “I love preparing. I love competing, and I love that feeling when everything’s on fire with a chance to win.”

He’d need to. It hadn’t been 12 hours, and here he was, back again. Between his warm-down and his warm-up, he’d hardly a handful of hours left for rest. He grimaced, stretched, turned, set himself, and clattered his opening drive 314 yards down the fairway. That left him a wedge in. He caught it awkwardly, and was scowling by the time it plopped down 20 yards shy of the green. So he started with one bogey five, and then followed it with another at the 18th, where he hit his second shot into the bunker on the right side. His one under ended up a one over.

Woods had exactly 51 minutes to get ready for his next round. He spent most of them on the practice range, where he updated his yardage book, rubbed in some painkilling gel and took a couple of dozen swings with his irons before heading around to the practice green and then back to the first tee.

Woods’s next nine holes were up, down and all around. He fairly blustered through seven of them. There were birdies at the 3rd and 6th, where he hit a wizardly chip-in from the lip of the greenside bunker, and another at the 8th, but then there were bogeys at the 4th, 5th and 7th. Even his par at the 9th came via a tee shot into the trees on the right and a second that fetched up the gallery on the left of the green. You’ve seldom seen a man find a wilder way to cover the front nine in an even 36. The second nine was a little more straightforward, with a bogey at 14 balanced by a birdie at 15.

It all added up to one of the hardest 72s he has ever made.

And when it was over, he had made the cut for the 24th time in succession. Which didn’t signify much to him, except, he said, that “it means I have a chance going into the weekend, I’m here, and I have a chance to win the golf tournament”. Oh, and it meant he had an opportunity to needle his great mate Freddie Couples, who used to share this particular record with him. He didn’t stop to say too much more. He needed a cup of coffee, he said, a bite to eat and a little bit of sleep. “It’s been a long day,” he admitted, “a looooong day”. And he has a couple more coming up.