AUGUSTA, GA. – On Tuesday, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson teamed to beat Fred Couples and Thomas Pieters in a practice round before the Masters. Asked about the money game, Woods chuckled and said the course was too long for Couples, who is 58 and dealing with persistent back pain.
Woods knows whereof he speaks when it comes to back problems, but he may want to retract the chuckle. After two rounds of the Masters, Couples has the best score of the foursome, at 2 over par, while Woods and Mickelson had to strain to make the cut.
Woods shot a 75, leaving him at 4 over for the tournament.
Mickelson shot 79, his highest score ever in a Masters round, to finish at 5 over, just within the cut line.
Pieters shot 7 over and missed the cut, along with defending champion Sergio Garcia.
Who would have guessed that Vijay Singh and Couples would have blistered Woods and Mickelson in a theoretical two-on-two competition? Singh, 66, is at 1 over.
“I’m going to have to shoot a special weekend, and I need help,’’ Woods said of his chances of winning. “I’m not in control of my own destiny here.’’
No player has overcome more than an eight-shot 36-hole deficit to win at the Masters. Woods is 13 shots behind yet sounded relieved to have made the cut while playing in his first major since back fusion surgery.
“It was about six months ago I didn’t know if I was going to play again,’’ he said. “It’s incredible, and I’m just so thankful to have this opportunity, to play golf again. Playing at the championship level is a bonus.’’
Mickelson, healthy and 47, was trying to become the oldest player to win the Masters, and was less philosophical. “It was a rough day,’’ he said. “It’s disappointing. It is my favorite tournament of the year, and it’s a rough couple of days.’’
Woods and Mickelson each hit a ball into the bushes, Mickelson making a triple bogey on No. 9 and Woods making a double bogey at No. 5.
“I didn’t hit my irons very good at all,’’ Woods said. “I hit so many beautiful putts and nothing went in today.’’
He hit only seven of 14 fairways. Woods played exactly like someone who hadn’t played at the Masters because of injury since 2015.
Said Mickelson: “There’s a fine line between wanting it so bad and then also letting it kind of happen. As you get older, you feel a little bit more pressure on each one, because you don’t feel as though you have an unlimited number of events left.
“So given how well I was playing heading into this, I certainly put a lot of pressure on myself to perform this week and get it, because I know the opportunities here are lessening.’’