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  America
Behind leaders after day two at Masters
Tiger Needs Major Comeback
Tiger Woods

Trevor Immelman gave Tiger Woods an impressive target and the world's greatest player was nowhere to be found.

Showing that 4-under 68 in the opening round was no fluke, Immelman put up the same score Friday with birdies on the final two holes to break a logjam atop the leaderboard at Augusta National.

The South African was at 8-under 136 heading to the weekend and one stroke ahead of unheralded Brandt Snedeker, with two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson right in the mix after a 68 of his own.

Woods was 1 over through 12 holes, a daunting nine strokes off the pace and perhaps facing the prospect of needing an unprecedent ed comeback.

After shooting a pedestrian 72 the day before, Woods looked like he was rolling with a birdie on the very first hole Friday. His momentum didn't last long.

Woods played it safe off the tee at No. 2, hit an awful chip that plopped in the bunker and failed to get up-and-down when a 5-foot putt skidded by the cup. He took another bogey at the sixth, lipping out an 8-footer. A birdie at the par-5 eighth got him back to even for the day and the tournament.

What does this mean for his bid for a Grand Slam? Consider that Woods has never won any major coming from behind on the last day and his largest comeback in a PGA Tour event is no more than five shots. Jackie Burke had the greatest 36-hole comeback in Masters history, rallying from eight down in 1956.

Immelman bounced back from his only mistake, a bogey at the par-3 sixth, and finished strong with birdies at Nos. 17 and 18. He rolled in a 15-footer on the final hole, appearing fully recovered from some scary health issues over the past year.

Immelman lost 20 pounds because of a stomach parasite after last year's Masters, and late in the year a benign tumor was removed from his diaphragm. Still on the mend, he missed the cut in half his events this season, and his best showing in a stroke-play event is a tie for 40th.

"I realized that it can be taken away from you real fast," said Immelman, who shared the first-round lead with Justin Rose. "I feel like I've been loaned a talent. I'm trying to do as well as I can."

He took advantage of another warm, sunny day—a striking contrast to the frigid temperatures and biting wind of a year ago. With the threat of rain in the forecast, Immelman knew it was important to put up low numbers while they could be had.

"The course is going to show its teeth," he said. "You've got to make some good scores while you can."

Steve Flesch shot a 67, the lowest round of the tournament thus far, and headed to the weekend three shots off the pace at 139. That other lefty, Mickelson, was in contention, too, and going for his third green jacket in five years. He birdied three of the first eight holes, then reeled off nine pars in a row. The last two were a bit grating—especially No. 15, where he chipped down to 4 feet but missed the birdie putt.

But Mickelson got it back at the 17th, rolling in a 30-foot birdie that sent a giant roar through the towering Georgia pines.

"There's a long ways to go," Lefty said. "There's a few players ahead of me and a bunch of strong players right behind me. It's going to be an exciting weekend."

Snedeker, a former U.S. Amateur Public Links champion playing the Masters for just the second time, matched the leader with birdies on the final two holes for a 68 and a 137 total.

"He's got a lot of tools," said Tom Watson, who was part of Snedeker's group. "But the imagination is what impresses me. You have to have that here."

Ian Poulter, who made a hole-in-one on Thursday, stayed in the mix by shooting 69. He was tied with Flesch and Mickelson at 139.

Stephen Ames put himself in contention with a second straight 70. Paul Casey also was at 140, four shots off the lead, with Stewart Cink another stroke back after a 69.

Rose, who held at least a share of the 18-hole lead in his third straight Masters, was beginning to fade, as usual. He shot 38 on front side and was 2 over for the tournament, six shots behind the man he was tied with after Day 1.

Immelman was all over the flag, rolling in a 10-foot birdie at No. 5 and a 5-footer at the 11th. He also made a nice save at the par-3 12th after knocking his tee shot over the green. His chip came up about 12 feet short, but he sank the putt and strolled up confidently to retrieve his ball.

"To shoot 68 the first two days is probably beyond my expectations," he said. "I'm pretty thrilled right now."

Flesch had a bogey-free round and took advantage of the par 5s, leaving the 40-year-old in strong position heading to the weekend.

"I played great," said Flesch, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour but playing at the Masters for the first time since 2005. "The way I planned on playing this week was to attack the par 5s when I could."

The strategy worked to perfection. He was 5 under on the four longest holes, including an eagle at No. 13, and put up nothing but pars on everything else.

Flesch isn't the longest of hitters, but he got a chance to go for it after a strong drive at the 13th. He had 243 yards to the flag, with a slight breeze at his back, so he decided to go with a 3-iron. He caught it good—so good, in fact, that he thought his ball had carried over the green. (Associated Press)




 

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