The Masters: Tiger Woods rues cold putter as challenge fades

Tiger Woods

How's this for a stat?

Tiger Woods has played nearly 1,400 rounds on the PGA Tour. Today was the first time he has ever had 38 or more putts. 

Credit for that remarkable piece of intel must go to the doyen of golf statistics Justin Ray, but it perfectly explains exactly where it went wrong for the five-time Masters champion at a blustery, chilly Augusta National today.

Woods, 46, slumped to a six-over 78 to fall to seven-over for the tournament and, barring a miracle, out of the running to win this week. 

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Miracles, without wishing to sound flippant, have become something of a Tiger speciality. The fact that he is even able to play this week, just 14 months on from a car accident that almost killed him, is testament to his borderline ethereal powers of recovery and resolve. 

If he is to have any chance tomorrow - and, even then, it's a stretch - he'll need some divine intervention on the greens. And he knows it.

After a round in which he had four three-putts and a four-putt, Woods could do little but laugh. 

"I hit a thousand putts on the green out there," he said. "Take those away, replace them with two-putts, and I’m even-par for the day. I did exactly what I had to do today ball striking-wise but did the exact opposite on the greens.  

"I just couldn’t get a feel for getting comfortable over the ball. I just couldn’t find it. I was trying different things but nothing seemed to work. 

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"With as many putts as I hit, you think I’d have been able to figure it out somewhere along the line but it just didn’t happen."

The cooler temperatures did his battered body no favours either but, to his credit, Woods battled on. 

A bogey at the first was immediately reclaimed with a birdie at the second, thanks in no small part to a huge 364-yard drive down the hill. A double at the fifth was followed by another bogey at nine to send him out in 39. 

A second bogey of the week followed at 11 before he rolled back the years with a piece of vintage Woods at 12. A 9-iron to 10 feet set up a birdie, which he backed up with another on 13 - his 60th career birdie or better on that hole in his Masters career. 

That, though, was as good as it got. Bogeys at 16 and 17 were followed by a double at 18, virtually ending any hopes he may have been harbouring of winning a record-equalling sixth Green Jacket this week.

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But perhaps this week should be more about celebration than score.  

It cannot be stated enough: Tiger Woods' appearance this week is beyond stunning. Nobody thought it possible two weeks ago. And yet here is he. 

"Never give up," he said. "Always chase after your dreams. I fight each and every day. It’s a challenge. Each and every day presents its own challenges, for all of us. I wake up and we start the fight all over again."

Amen to that.

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