Brits share Masters lead, Woods lurking
Woods shoots 2nd-round 70 to trail clubhouse leaders Westwood, Poulter
Tiger Woods plodded along Friday, making one par after another, mixing in the occasional birdie, avoiding any major mistakes.
On a day when Augusta National showed its teeth and some early contenders faded away, Woods finished his round near the top of the Masters leaderboard and liked his position heading into the weekend.
"Yeah, yeah I do," he said, flashing a smile that usually strikes fear in his rivals, a smile that hasn't been seen in the last five months while he dealt with a sex scandal.
Again showing no rustiness from his long layoff, Woods shot a 2-under 70 that might have been even more impressive than his opening 68 given the much tougher conditions.
He still had some work to do. England's Lee Westwood grabbed a share of the lead with a 3-under 69 to pull even with countryman Ian Poulter.
Brights Grove, Ont., native Mike Weir shot even par and is 1-under 143 after two rounds.
Neither Poulter nor Westwood have won a major title.
Woods is in a position that has surprised just about everybody except him.
"I usually put myself in contention most of the time here," Woods said after a 2-under 70. "And this year, I'm right there."
If that's not enough, Phil Mickelson is along for the ride.
Mickelson needed a birdie on the 18th hole to be paired with Woods, just as they were in the final round last year. His 65-foot putt banged off the back of the cup before spinning away, giving Lefty a 71.
Woods and Mickelson were at 138, part of a group that included K.J. Choi, Ricky Barnes and Anthony Kim, the sassy young American coming off a victory last week in the Houston Open.
Poulter birdied three of the par fives and both of the tricky par threes on the back side before his only stumble Friday — a bogey at the 18th hole.
Standing over the treacherous tee shot at No. 12, he went straight at the flag over Rae's Creek, leaving himself with a 12-foot putt and rolled it right in.
Westwood got off to a blistering start with an eagle at No. 2, followed by a birdie at the fourth, the shortest par-4 hole on the course. He made the turn with a 4-under 32.
4 Masters titles
Woods has captured golf's biggest championships 14 times, more than anyone but Jack Nicklaus. Four of those titles have come at Augusta National, and if this keeps up, Woods might be wearing another green jacket Sunday evening.
"It feels good to be back in contention," Woods said. "I've put myself in contention most years here. This year, I'm right there. We've got 36 more holes and I'm sure the golf course, they're not going to make it easy for us."
There were no eagles for Woods, a day after he made two in a round for the first time in his Masters career. But he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 13 and baled himself out for a poor chip with a 15-foot birdie at No. 15, pushing his overall score to 6-under.
While this all feels so normal inside the ropes, this has been a year like no other for Woods. His personal life fell apart after a November car crash outside his home led to revelations of numerous extramarital affairs.
Massive crowds have followed Woods from hole to hole since play began Thursday, with fans applauding nearly every time he hit the ball. His mother, Kultida, was there again, accompanied by Nike chairman Phil Knight.
His wife, Elin Nordegren, was not.
Meanwhile, it took just three holes for Fred Couples' feel-good story at the Masters to unravel.
The 50-year-old Couples, the oldest player to hold the outright lead after the opening round (minus six) at Augusta National, closed with three straight bogeys Friday for a 75.
At 3-under for the tournament, he's five strokes behind clubhouse Westwood and Poulter and, in Couples' mind, likely out of contention for another green jacket.
Couples said he needed "to be at five, six under, to be realistic." While not counting himself out, he said, "75 is not a great score."
Couples added his creaky back had flared up again, but his bigger problem was his putting.