Immelman leads surprising Masters

April 11, 2008 5:49:36 PM PDT
Anyone who thought this Masters might be the start of something grand must have struggled to stay awake Friday while watching another performance from Tiger Woods that hardly matched the hype. And even after he scrambled from the opposite fairway for one last par, expectations shifted.

The Grand Slam that Woods said was "easily within reason" will have to start with the second-best comeback at Augusta National.

The 36-hole leader was Trevor Immelman, who only four months ago was in a hospital in South African to begin a speedy recovery from a benign tumor that doctors removed from his diaphragm. He put together his best start of the year, adding another 4-under 68 to build a one-shot lead over Brandt Snedeker.

"This year is special," said Immelman, who was at 8-under 136. "To shoot two 68s in the first two days is probably beyond my expectations, so I'm pretty thrilled right now."

Only when the wind died late in the afternoon did Woods come to life. He stuffed his approach into 2 feet for a birdie on the 17th, then escaped with par on the final hole when he drove into the trees. Woods hit a low hook off the pine straw around tree trunks and into the 10th fairway, then hit a sand wedge that might have spun back closer to the hole if not for hitting Stuart Appleby's ball.

No matter. Woods made the 8-footer for par and a 71.

Even so, he was at 1-under 143 and seven shots out of the lead. The largest 36-hole comeback in Masters history was Jack Burke Jr. in 1956, and that required a weekend collapse by Ken Venturi, who played that year as an amateur.

"I'm in good shape," Woods said, perhaps knowing something the 40,000 fans at Augusta didn't. "I'm obviously seven back. I need to play well. We've got tougher conditions coming in. You've got to stay patient. On this golf course, you can make up shots quickly. I've just got to hang in there."

Woods rallied to win from six shots behind over the final two rounds in 2005, but he was tied for third. This time, he had a dozen players ahead of him, and they were no amateurs.

Phil Mickelson, who has won the green jacket two of the last four years, got enough out of his second round to post a bogey-free 68 and was three shots behind at 139 along with Ian Poulter of England and Steve Flesch, whose 67 was the best score of the week.


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