Tiger Woods sets record, but has a bigger goal at the Masters: 'I have a chance to win'

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the eighth hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the eighth hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — At Augusta National Golf Club, where phones are forbidden and communication with the outside world is limited, the manually operated scoreboards at each green are the only way patrons learn of the approaching group’s scores relative to par.

At about 3:30 p.m. Friday, in the midst of a wind-blown second round of the Masters, the operator of the scoreboard at the 18th green posted a new name and score for the man waltzing up the fairway.

“WOODS,” it read, a single adjacent figure in green: 1.

Hundreds surrounding the green bellowed with delight, an applause filtered through the crowd, and one man gleefully announced to the people, “Tiger is making the cut!”

History was made here.

Mark down the date — April 12, 2024 — as the day that Tiger Woods broke another record. He’s made more consecutives cuts — a whopping 24 — than anyone else in Masters history, eclipsing Freddie Couples and Gary Player’s 23.

“I’ll be able to text Freddie and give him a little needling,” Woods said with a smile afterward among a scrum of reporters.

It’s a remarkable feat, almost unbelievable when factoring in a litany of things. For one, Woods is a 48-year-old with more metal wiring, screws and plates in his body than the grandstands hugging the Augusta fairways. He’s more machine than man these days.

Secondly, this old man played 23 holes on Friday, completing his first round — postponed Thursday for darkness — on Friday morning. He had to be at the course by about 7 a.m. and didn’t wrap up until about 4 p.m.

Thirdly, this course, already one of the most challenging in the world, got tougher on Friday. Gusts of more than 40 mph swept across Augusta. Steady breezes of 15-20 mph blew through the Georgia pines.

Hats blew off. Pins violently whipped. And trees spit their needles on those below.

Sand blasted from bunkers. Water rippled across ponds. And the azaleas lost most of their remaining blossoms.

Through it all, standing there on the 18th green, his white pants legs fluttering, Woods sank a 5-foot par putt for a second-round, even-par 72, a two-day score of 1-over 145 and his record-breaking cut (he made it by three strokes).

Take a moment to appreciate this run. It started in 1997 with a 21-year-old Woods claiming his first green jacket. He made those 24 straight cuts over a 28-year span (he missed tournaments in 2014, 2016-17, 2021). His only missed cut in 26 tries here came as an amateur in 1996.

But enough about the record. There is something more important at play here: Tiger Woods is in this thing.

“I’m here. I have a chance to win the golf tournament,” he told reporters.

Scores ballooned on Friday. And yet, despite playing just 24 holes of competitive golf this year, Woods was just two shots off of reaching the 10-man leaderboard — seven shots back of leader Scottie Scheffler. He out-played guys like Dustin Johnson (79 on Friday), Brooks Koepka (73) and Bryson DeChambeau (73), who is just one shot off the lead.

Afterward, Tiger flowed with confidence. After all, why can’t he win here again? Why couldn’t he storm back for a sixth Masters?

“Food and caffeine and I’ll be ready to go,” he said before acknowledging the grind. “I’m tired. Been up for a while. Been a long day.”

It was a grinder, indeed. He completed his first round around 9:30 a.m. with a 45-minute break before teeing off for his second round.

He balanced three birdies with three bogies from holes No. 3 to No. 8 before a tense final nine. As Woods approached the turn, a massive crowd gathered, many of them well aware of what was at stake — that cut streak. After a bogey at 14, he stood on the fairway at the par-5 15th at 2-over — two shots shy of the cutline.

What happened over the next four holes reminded so many on-lookers of the Tiger of old. Over water and onto a turtle back green, Woods stuck a 257-yard approach on the par-5 15th to 25 feet and tapped in for birdie. On the par-3 16th, he hit it to within 26 feet for a tap-in par. And on the 17th and 18th holes, he flashed a marvelous short game, getting up and down for par with superb chips on each.

He marched up the 18th green to a rousing applause.

“No doubt that he has enough game!” yelled one on-looker.

“He can be top-20!” said another.

Top-20? Oh come on. Tiger Woods isn’t here for a top-20. He’s not here for a cut streak either.

He’s here to win and he’s right in this thing.