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Tiger Woods has brought a familiar roar back to the Masters Tournament

Tiger Woods chips on the practice range on Friday, before starting his second round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
Gregory Shamus
/
Getty Images
Tiger Woods chips on the practice range on Friday, before starting his second round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

One year after watching the Masters from a hospital bed, Tiger Woods is one under par in Augusta. His very presence has been enough to electrify crowds in Augusta, Ga., 25 years after his first Masters championship.

"Now driving — Tiger Woods!" course officials announce in the tee box, setting off roars from the crowed that were only eclipsed by their appreciation for Woods' putting. He drained a 29-foot putt for birdie on the par-3 16th hole, after watching an earlier birdie putt lip out of the hole on 5.

Woods, 46, teed off for his second round Friday afternoon, playing alongside Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and Joaquín Niemann of Chile in a repeat of their trio from Thursday. But Oosthuizen withdrew after going four over par in his first round.

Niemann, who at 23 is half Woods' age, finished Thursday's round at three under par to put him in the thick of the group at the top of the leaderboard.

You can follow live video of the featured groups on the Masters' website. The tournament is also being aired on CBS and ESPN.

Woods is playing his first high-stakes golf in 17 months

Woods has said his adrenaline kicks in when he hit the course — and he predicted he'll be sore after putting his surgically repaired right leg to a new test. The adrenaline also seemed to kick in for the crowd, who delighted in his birdie on 16.

"To finish in the red today after as long a layoff as I've had and not being in competitive golf — I don't really consider a [father-son] scramble in the PNC, it is competitive, but it's not like this — this is totally different," Woods said on Thursday.

"But to play this golf course and to do what I did today, to make — to hit the shots in the right spots — I know where to hit it to a lot of these pins, and I miss in the correct spots and give myself good angles. I did that all day, and I was able to make a few putts and end up in the red like I am now."

It's the first high-stakes golf for Woods in 17 months, and while Thursday's results fueled the frenzy around his return to Augusta National, Woods was quick to say he was merely thankful to be competing at all — and reminding everyone that it was just one day of the tournament that ends on Sunday.

The golfer atop the leaderboard going into Friday was Sungjae Im of South Korea, who started his second round at five under par. He was trailed by Cameron Smith, the world No. 6 player who was just one stroke behind Im after Thursday.

Walking the course may be his biggest challenge, Woods says

Woods last won the Masters in 2019, at age 43, claiming his fifth green jacket. His return has brought a familiar buzz back to Augusta's manicured course, a phenomenon that includes his fellow pros.

A collection of comments from the PGA Tour site:

  • "I mean, how many comebacks has he had?" — Jordan Spieth
  • "I know one thing about him, he's definitely not missed any days of trying to recover and get the most out of whatever he has now." — Stewart Cink
  • "I mean, are we really that surprised?" — Zach Johnson
  • Woods crashed an SUV and hit a tree in February 2021, in a violent high-speed accident that sent his vehicle into the air, landing on its side. Extreme injuries to his right leg prompted doctors to consider a possible amputation, but they were able to stabilize it by inserting a rod into his tibia and using screws and pins to support his foot and ankle.

    Earlier this week, Woods told journalists that he believes he has a chance to win the Masters.

    "I love competing, and I feel like if I can still compete at the highest level, I'm going to, and if I feel like I can still win, I'm going to play," Woods said. "But if I feel like I can't, then you won't see me out here. You guys know me better than that.

    "I don't show up to an event unless I think I can win it," he added. "So that's the attitude I've had. There will be a day when it won't happen, and I'll know when that is."

    Physically, Woods said, he's not worried about hitting the ball and playing golf. The real concern, he said, is walking the hills at Augusta National, comparing it to the challenge of "a major marathon."

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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