Glimpse of Tiger's magic again looks a false dawn

History suggests that Tiger Woods will not win the 75th Masters today. Famously, Woods was leading or tied for the lead after three rounds of all his 14 major victories. For all the ominous warnings of his second-round charge on Friday, Woods dropped off the leaderboard last night.

Nothing could be quite so simple with the former world No 1, of course. It is hardly like Rory McIlroy and the others ahead of Woods will be ruling him out. But after a 66 on Friday, his best score at Augusta since a 65 during his last Masters win in 2005, Woods could manage only a 74 yesterday to lie seven behind the young Northern Irishman.

As he attempts to rehabilitate his game and his reputation, there have been flashes from Woods before, notably a 66 in the third round of the US Open last year which led to nothing on the final day. Was Friday's outrageous burst of seven birdies in 11 holes just another flash in the pan?

Yesterday Tiger struggled to maintain the momentum. His long game was solid, not quite as precise as on Friday but certainly without the horrors that have punctuated his game this year. But on the greens nothing went his way. There have been times this season when it seemed he would never hole a crucial putt again. Some of his misses were shocking.

There was some of the old assurance on Friday, particularly when he slotted home a 12-footer on the 18th. In the third round, his stroke still looked good but he lipped out several times. A three-putt at the 11th cost a bogey, another at the 15th meant missing out on what has been an automatic birdie over the years.

A banana-shot approach around the trees at the 15th had been a rare sign of the old genius but the more the 35-year-old pushed to get back into contention, the less he achieved. Woods remains a work in progress and despite all the changes to he is making with new swing coach Sean Foley, the ultimate test is being able to trust his game under severe pressure with a major on the line. Only then will we, and he, know more about the state of his mind and game.

It is a sign of the times that it took a blistering run on Friday for Woods to become part of the narrative. The 75th Masters had plenty of storylines but for a day and a half Woods was not one of them. There were the new young guns leading the charge, with Rory McIlroy becoming the youngest halfway leader since Woods himself 14 years ago. There were the new monster hitters, led by the engaging Spaniard Alvaro Quiros. There was the 51-year-old Fred Couples and British interest from Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

And the heart-warming story of Hideki Matsuyama, who is 19 and got here by winning the Asian Amateur last year. The only amateur to make the cut, he added a 68 and will feature in the Butler Cabin ceremony tonight. A student at Fukushi University at Sendai, the earthquake and tsunami could not have hit closer to home.

There was little conviction about Tiger's prospects at the halfway stage, although Foley was typically upbeat. "You're going to start seeing him playing shots that he hasn't hit in a long time," he said. "He's already put the pieces together. Now he's going to go play golf."

Woods said: "I'm just trying to put myself in the mix on Sunday. It's irrelevant who is there. My whole job is to give myself a chance with nine holes to go. I've been successful in the past by doing it that way."

Until he has a fifth Green Jacket and a 15th major title tonight, no one is willing to say that Woods is back. He will have to do it the hard way. No one, least of all the kids who were inspired by watching his 1997 Masters demolition, is prepared to hand him the title without a darn good fight.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable