|Tiger Woods kicks his iron after an errant shot on the par-3 16th on Friday at Augusta National. (Getty Images)|
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- For those who have loyally watched the season's first major over the decades, they will recognize that a handful of truisms inevitably come into play for Masters contenders.
The driver isn't crucially important, guys who can't putt well don't win, and those who don't light up the par-5 holes might as well stay home.
Four-time Masters winner Tiger Woods, trying to win at Augusta National for the first time in seven years, this week hasn't solved the last part. Worse, the other two have been problematic at times, too.
With cheers welling up as other players rolled in birdies and eagles on the course's famous three-shot holes, Woods missed chance after chance and faded with an ugly 75 on Friday, leaving him eight strokes off the lead at the season's first major.
In two days of unusually wild shots, heaved clubs and angry outbursts, the letdowns at the par-5s were magnified because he couldn't erase any of his mistakes. Just 12 days after Woods won for the first time in 30 months, and by a whopping five strokes, the 75 represented his worst second-round score as a professional at Augusta and tied his highest score here since 2004.
He played the par-3 holes in 3 over on Friday, too, so there were few places to turn for salvation.
"If I clean those up, I am under par," he said.
While there were plenty of issues to shore up, his execution on the club's scoring holes was nothing short of pitiable and largely to blame for the backward march. On the eight par-5s he's played, Woods mustered one birdie while absorbing two penalty strokes, one for an unplayable lie in the first round and a second on Friday for hitting his approach in the hazard on the 13th.
Seeking his first major victory since mid-2008, nobody needed to tell Woods that his paltry par-5 scoring output wasn't going to cut it. After all, in his 17 previous years at the event, Woods was a combined 133 under par on the course's reachable par-5 holes.
He was tied for last in the field with one par-5 birdie. Nobody had zero.
Now he'll need to rewrite his personal portfolio. In his four Masters wins, Woods has never ranked lower than fourth place after 36 holes and he'll start the third round all but dead and buried at T40.
In the final round last year, Woods erased a seven-shot overnight deficit before he finished the front nine. He might need similar magic this time.
"I need to cut that down a little tomorrow, cut that deficit down, and get off to a quick start like I did last year," he said.
The par-5 scoring holes offer the best opportunity.
Woods hasn't been able to put together two proper shots to make the requisite red numbers on the course's fabled three-shot holes. A bad drive here, a sloppy approach there, or even a poor sand shot. In fact, he's had to scramble to salvage pars three times.
The 13th hole was a synopsis of the first two rounds. He overcooked a hook off the tee, which narrowly avoided going in the creek down the left side of the hole. From 200 yards, he tried to bust an iron out of the rough, but it came up short, in the hazard. From there, he scrambled to save a par as network analysts questioned the decision to go for the green as "greedy."
On the 15th, he wasted a perfect drive by fanning a shot from 216 yards well into the gallery, sending fans scrambling for cover and Woods into another profane tirade. Woods dumped the pitch shot in a greenside bunker, before finally saving par.
According to a network graphic, the day marked only the third time Woods had played a professional round at Augusta without at least one birdie or eagle on a par-5 hole.
There were other alarm bells ringing, too. Woods has a five-footer for par at the fourth hole, a putt he babied so badly, he left it nearly a foot short of the hole and a broadcaster called it "a whiff, basically." He was visibly angry after missing a seven-footer for birdie on the 14th.
He made uncomfortable bogeys from middle of the fairway on Nos. 9 and 11.
But even when he struggled in the past, the par-5s offered redemption. After entering the event as the favorite for the first time in years, they just contributed to the problems.