Scottie Scheffler in driving seat as Tiger Woods’ Masters challenge falters

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Scottie Scheffler In Driving Seat As Tiger Woods’ Masters Challenge Falters Scottie Scheffler In Driving Seat As Tiger Woods’ Masters Challenge Falters
Tiger Woods, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent, Augusta

Scottie Scheffler remained in control of the 86th Masters as a putter as cold as the weather ended the faint hopes of Tiger Woods playing his way into contention.

Woods had defied the odds to make a 22nd consecutive halfway cut in the year’s first major in his first top-level start since suffering severe leg injuries in a car accident 14 months ago.

But the chilly conditions at Augusta National were doing the 46-year-old’s injury-ravaged body no favours, the 15-time major winner covering his first 12 holes in four over par.

After a perfect drive on the first, Woods hit a mediocre approach and three-putted from long range for a disappointing bogey, but almost holed his greenside bunker shot for an eagle on the par-five second and tapped in for birdie.

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Woods needed a fairway wood to attempt to reach the green on the par-three fourth and tugged his shot left of the green, but produced a superb chip over a bunker to save par.

However, after a poor approach to the next, Woods proceeded to four-putt from 65 feet for a double-bogey six, a somewhat casual bogey putt catching the left edge of the hole and spinning out.

Woods also three-putted the ninth and 11th before carding his second birdie of the day on the par-three 12th, the same hole where he took 10 in the final round in November 2020.

Tiger Woods reacts after missing a birdie putt on the eighth green during the third round of the Masters (David J. Phillip/AP)

History was firmly on Scheffler’s side as he attempted to cement his position as world number one with a first major title.

A superb second round of 67 gave Scheffler a halfway total of eight under par and a record-equalling five-shot lead over defending champion Hideki Matsuyama, 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and first-round leader Sungjae Im.

Four of the five previous players to hold such a halfway lead in tournament history went on to claim the green jacket, with Jordan Spieth the most recent to do so in 2015.

After saving par on the first, Scheffler birdied the second and third to move six shots clear, before a bogey on the fourth and Lowry’s second birdie of the day on the sixth meant the gap was down to four.

Scheffler has already won more than £5.6million this season courtesy of his three wins, the 25-year-old breaking his duck in the WM Phoenix Open, then claiming the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play titles to make it three wins in five starts.

From the lowest-ranked player on last year’s United States Ryder Cup team at 21st in the world, Scheffler suddenly found himself top of the rankings and displacing Spain’s Jon Rahm, the same man he had beaten in the singles at Whistling Straits in the home side’s record 19-9 victory.

Scottie Scheffler hits out of a bunker on the 17th hole during his second round in the Masters (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Scheffler has played just nine majors in his career and twice at Augusta National, although he finished 19th on his debut in 2020 and 18th last year.

He also had the advantage of being drawn alongside five-time champion Tiger Woods for the final round in 2020 and three-time winner Phil Mickelson for the first two rounds last year, while his caddie Ted Scott was on the bag when Bubba Watson won in both 2012 and 2014.

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“I learned a lot just by watching those guys manage their way around the golf course,” Scheffler said.

“I’ve seen tons of highlights and plenty of stuff, and I feel like I’m constantly learning about this place.”

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