By Frank Pingue
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – A red-hot Patrick Reed stormed into a two-shot lead after the second round of the U.S. Masters on Friday, while a struggling Tiger Woods barely kept alive his hopes of a fairytale comeback from injury.
Former world number one Woods was considered one of the favorites in his bid to collect a fifth Green Jacket after showing impressive form in his return to competition this year, but was unable to make any noise for a second consecutive day.
The 14-times major champion struggled in the tough scoring conditions at a windy Augusta National, mixing three bogeys with a double-bogey and two birdies for a three-over-par 75 that put him on four-over par for the week.
That left Woods, competing in his first major since the 2015 PGA Championship, just one shot above the cut-line but a distant 13 shots back of world number 24 Reed, who is hoping to pen a comeback of his own after missing the cut last year.
Following a bogey at the first, Woods added a double-bogey at the par-four fifth, where he took a penalty drop from an unplayable lie after sending his second shot into the bushes to the left of the green.
He bogeyed the par-three 12th after sending his tee shot into Rae’s Creek and while he did well to card a pair of birdies over the next three holes, he dropped another shot at the par-three 16th.
Reed, a five-times winner on the PGA Tour still seeking his breakthrough in a major, mixed nine birdies with three bogeys for a six-under-par 66 that brought him to nine under for the week, two shots clear of Australian Marc Leishman (67).
Leishman delivered the shot of the day at Augusta National when his approach at the par-five 15th stopped six feet from the hole, setting up an easy eagle.
Swede Henrik Stenson (70) sits alone in third place at five under, while Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy (71) and former champion Jordan Spieth (74) are a further shot adrift.
McIlroy, who with a win this week would become only the sixth player to win each of golf’s four majors, credited his newfound ability to remain patient for his recent form.
“I don’t have to go out there and make a birdie on every hole, especially not on this golf course, and in these conditions, pars are okay,” McIlroy told reporters.
“Sometimes pars might be a little bit boring and you might feel as if you want to get a little bit more out of your round, but as you look up the leaderboard and you’re still there around the lead, that’s taken awhile for me to adjust to.”
Sergio Garcia, whose 81 on Thursday was the worst opening-round score by a defending champion, followed that up with a six-over-par 78 to become the 10th reigning Green Jacket owner to miss the cut.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by John O’Brien)