Berliner Tageblatt - US stars duel Hojgaard for Masters lead as Tiger grinds on

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US stars duel Hojgaard for Masters lead as Tiger grinds on
US stars duel Hojgaard for Masters lead as Tiger grinds on / Photo: © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

US stars duel Hojgaard for Masters lead as Tiger grinds on

Americans Scottie Scheffler, Bryson DeChambeau and Max Homa battled Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard for the lead in Friday's second round of the 88th Masters while Tiger Woods struggled to avoid missing the cut for the first time since 1996.

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Homa, chasing his first major title, birdied the par-5 second hole and sank a 36-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fourth but stumbled with a bogey after missing the green at the par-4 11th to stand on 6-under and share the lead in windy conditions at Augusta National.

World number one Scheffler had just started his second round in the penultimate group while DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open winner who fired a seven-under 65 to lead after the first round, made a bogey at the par-3 fourth to fall back.

Consecutive birdies at the par-5 13th and 14th lifted Hojgaard into the lead pack as well.

The Dane is among 20 first-time Masters starters trying to be the first rookie to win a green jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

But the most emotional drama on the hilly 7,555-yard layout centered on Woods, who has struggled to walk rounds since suffering severe leg injuries in a 2021 car crash, having to walk 23 holes Friday after finishing only 13 holes Thursday due to a rain delay.

The 15-time major champion has made 23 consecutive Masters cuts to share the record with Gary Player and Fred Couples, but would grab the mark all to himself by finishing in the low 50 or level for 36 holes.

Woods was grinding through a roller coaster round at 1-over for the tournament through 10 holes, two shots under the projected cut line with the formidable back nine ahead of him and little margin for error.

Fans cheered Woods hole after hole, hoping for another historic feat from the 48-year-old US legend whose five Masters triumphs include his first major win in 1997 and his most recent major title in 2019, that capping a comeback from multiple back surgeries.

Woods also is playing his first major since right ankle fusion surgery last April due to injuries from the accident.

Woods stumbled in finishing round one with bogeys at the 14th and 18th holes to finish 18 holes on 73.

In round two, Woods birdied the third, par-3 sixth and par-5 eighth and made bogeys at the par-3 fourth, fifth and seventh holes.

Woods sank a nine-foot birdie putt at the third, but missed both the green and a six-foot par putt at the par-3 fourth, then found a fairway bunker at the fifth on the way to another bogey.

Woods answered with a hole-out from 27 feet for birdie at the par-3 sixth only to find a greenside bunker at seven and miss a seven-foot par putt, then respond by making a four-foot birdie putt at the par-5 eighth.

- 'It's tough out there' -

Hojgaard was 5-under through 15 holes Thursday and closed with three routine pars to shoot 67.

"You've got to adapt," Hojgaard said. "You have to hit the shots. It's tough out there. It's going to be a grind. It's going to be a long day."

Scheffler, who could join Woods as the only players to win the Masters twice while atop the rankings, was joined by four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele.

McIlroy, whose most recent major win came in 2014, needs a Masters triumph to complete a career grand slam, a feat achieved only by Woods, Player, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

McIlroy fired a 71, his best opening round at the Masters since 2018, while Schauffele, chasing his first major crown, began on 72.

F.Pavlenko--BTB