Masters 2022: Tiger Woods’ challenge fades, Scottie Scheffler in charge | Golf News

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Tiger Woods’ hopes of a victorious comeback from career-threatening injuries evaporated on the Augusta National greens on Saturday as Scottie Scheffler took a three-stroke lead at the Masters. Woods, 14 months after a car crash that left him with injuries so severe he feared losing his right leg, saw his hopes of a stunning comeback for a sixth green jacket dashed with his worst ever run of Masters, a six-over par 78. The fact that the 46-year-old was even able to put it on the line – and make a 22nd straight Masters cut – was astonishing.

But nine shy of Scheffler’s lead to start the day, Woods knew he needed something sensational to give himself a chance on Sunday, and instead posted a worse lap than third lap 77 that he shot on his debut in 1996 as an amateur.

“It felt like I hit a thousand putts on the greens today,” said Woods, whose previous mastery of Augusta’s unforgiving, rolling greens helped him win five Masters titles.

“I felt like I didn’t really hit him that badly, but I had four three-putts and one four-putt,” Woods said. “I just couldn’t have an idea.”

The 223 par seven over Woods puts him 16 strokes behind Scheffler, who survived the drama in the 18th to score a par 71 one-under for a 207 nine-under total.

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The 25-year-old Texan takes a three-stroke lead over Australian Cameron Smith on the final lap.

On a cold, windy day when the scores soared, Smith hit the only round of the 60s with a four-under par 68 for 210.

Smith was two shots ahead of third-placed South Korean Im Sung-jae, who shot under 71.

But, again, it was Woods who caught the eye.

A three-putt on the first hole proved a harbinger, a birdie on the second – where his shot from a greenside bunker barely missed finding the cut for the eagle – proving only a short respite.

From the fairway on the fifth, Woods left himself 65 feet, and he could only watch in disbelief as his three-foot bogey effort circled the cut and remained upright.

Bogeys at the ninth and 11th followed before draining a 14-foot birdie at the 12th and two 27-foot putts for a birdie at the par-five 13th.

The thousands who followed Woods’ every move tried to win him over, cheering and shouting encouragement on every hole, but he closed his round with bogeys on 16 and 17 and another double bogey on the last.

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While Woods acknowledged on Thursday that simply passing his first competitive round in 17 months was something of a victory, he made it clear that he would be looking for better things on Sunday, such as getting back to level.

Woods was not alone in struggling in the cold and windy conditions, where the scoring average was 74.5 and only seven players were under par for the tournament after 54 holes.

Irish 2019 British Open champion Shane Lowry and 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel both shot a par 73 to tie fourth on two under 214s.

Scheffler Shrubbery Drama

Scheffler was within 10 on 17 holes when his tee shot at 18 clipped a tree branch and ended up in dense undergrowth to the left of the fairway.

It took a concerted search to find his ball and after wading through the bushes to see the situation he took and an unplayable lie, belted a shot to the green and limited the damage to a bogey.

“We saw the guy who always finds the balls freaking out. I thought, ‘Oh shit,'” Scheffler said.

“Just getting him out of the bush and trying to get my fives was key,” added Scheffler who said his heart rate “increased when they couldn’t find the ball, but he came back down when they found him”.

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It was a dramatic end to a round that featured half a dozen birdies and five bogeys, with Scheffler maintaining his air of methodical composure throughout.

“You hate to bogey on the last hole, but the way I did it sure felt like par,” Scheffler said. “Really a good end to the day.”

Smith finished tied for second behind Dustin Johnson in 2020, when he became the only player to shoot four rounds in the 60s at the Masters.

The Aussie said playing to himself in difficult conditions was key to his round.

“I didn’t try to run the drivers off the tee. I just tried to give myself opportunities,” said Smith, who added that the hardest part of the day for him was “keeping my warm hands”.

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“It was brutal. I think off the start with that westerly wind, there aren’t a lot of holes that you get directly downwind or directly upwind.

“You have a lot of crosswinds and can get quite tricky on the greens and hit different shapes and try to judge the wind as well.”

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