- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - If Tiger Woods is wondering what it will take for him to win a fifth green jacket this weekend, he might look at what Sandy Lyle managed to do to Augusta National on Friday. Five birdies in a row isn’t too shabby for a 51-year-old, especially one who hasn’t won a tournament of any kind in 17 years.

Better yet, he could have stolen a glance during his own round and watched teen sensation Rory McIlroy just behind him. No fear beneath that unruly mop of hair, even when things didn’t always work out as planned.

Actually, there wasn’t a whole lot to fear in the second round of the Masters, something the greatest player in the world couldn’t seem to figure out. The tees were up, the greens were soft, and even some swirling winds weren’t enough to protect the course from a renewed assault on par.

Yes, the greens were still tricky enough to keep things from getting too far out of hand. But at the end of the day Anthony Kim had made a staggering 11 birdies in 18 holes, two players were tied for the midway lead at 9-under, and Augusta National had given up a record 17 eagles.

All the while, Woods was playing as though he were in the U.S. Open.

For a second day in a row, Woods preached patience and played conservatively. For a second day in a row, he did little but watch as players passed him by.

The Tiger of 1997 would have had this guy for breakfast. If he doesn’t watch it, the new Tigers of 2009 will eat his lunch.

He’s still got an outside chance to win the Masters because he is Tiger Woods. But the guy in the blue shirt walking the fairways Friday didn’t look a whole lot like him and there wasn’t a fist pump in sight.

“Conditions were tough,” a tight-lipped Woods explained after signing for an even-par 72. “It was just tough all around.”

It didn’t seem that tough to Kenny Perry, the 48-year-old who kept pulling his driver out of the bag and banging it down the middle on his way to a 5-under 67. And it certainly wasn’t tough for Kim, who decided after reading the story of the tragic death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart that he wasn’t going to get too despondent about a missed putt or two.

“You have to live every moment of every day like it’s your last,” Kim said after shooting his 65. “I don’t want to go out whining about a three-putt.”

No one, of course, can accuse Woods of not living the life he wants. And it’s hard to argue with an approach to major championships that has paid off with 14 victories, including a thrilling win in last year’s U.S. Open.

But this isn’t the Open. It’s not the Masters of the last few years where grinding took precedence over charging.

This is more like 1997, when Woods shot 65 in the second round to begin his rout of the field, or 1986 when Nicklaus shot 30 on the back nine for perhaps the most memorable Masters win ever. This is a course waiting to be attacked, and ready to reward those who do.

But Woods doesn’t seem to get it.

He walked out of the scoring hut off the 18th green clearly unhappy with his round, and even more upset that it ended for a second straight day with a bogey on the 18th hole. He paused briefly for questions, but for the most part offered only one- or two-word answers.

None of them had anything to do with why he tossed away at least a stroke, maybe two, by hitting a 5-wood off the 13th tee instead of something stronger. None of them touched on why he kept shooting away from pins instead of attacking them.

He’s seven shots back heading into the weekend, but he’s not going to make up the margin by standing still. There are too many players between him and the lead, and too many opportunities still to be had.

It’s possible that Woods had that in mind as he walked quickly through the clubhouse after his round and headed straight for the driving range. Once there, he emptied a bag of balls, stuck a tee in the ground and began banging drives halfway up into the huge net that protects the end of the range.

After hitting about 30 of them he put down the driver and picked up a pair of tennis shoes. A small crowd that gathered to watch applauded, and he gave them a quick wave before walking off.

The weekend awaits, and with it comes the usual questions. Among them would be, is Chad Campbell for real, can Kenny Perry do it at his age, and will the pressure of the Masters get to Anthony Kim?

The biggest one, though, may be this:

Will the real Tiger Woods show up?


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at [email protected]

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