Poulter, Westwood in front-Woods in third at Augusta

April 10, 2010

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Augusta, GA – Englishmen Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are knotted atop the leaderboard after Friday’s second round of The Masters at Augusta National.

Poulter (68) and Westwood (69) are tied at eight-under 136.

Tiger Woods shot a two-under 70 on Friday and is tied for third place at six- under 138.

Thursday’s round was Woods’ first on the PGA Tour since a sex scandal last fall caused the four-time Masters champion to take a self-imposed absence from the game.

Woods came back with a fury when he posted a four-under 68, his lowest opening round at The Masters. On Friday, Woods mixed three birdies and a bogey for his 70.

“I feel good, I feel very comfortable,” said Woods. “Today I hit a lot of good putts. I made my share. Conditions were so much more difficult today. As you can see the scores, guys are not tearing this place apart like they were yesterday.”

On Friday, Woods tapped in a short birdie putt at the par-five second hole, but lost a shot thanks to a bogey at No. 4. He parred his next eight holes, then took advantage of the two par fives on Augusta’s second nine.

At the 13th, Woods hit his drive long enough to reach the green in two, but elected to lay up due to the wind. He hit his third 20 feet short of the stick, but drained the putt for birdie.

He was five-under for the championship and missed the green with his second at the par-five 15th. Woods chipped on and made the birdie putt to get to minus- six.

Woods parred his last three to get in at 138.

Phil Mickelson, a two-time Masters champion, finished with a one-under 71 and tied Woods, K.J. Choi (71), Ricky Barnes (70) and Anthony Kim (70) at minus- six.

Mickelson nearly made a long birdie putt on the last, but it popped out of the hole.

“I gave it a little bit extra,” said Mickelson, who won in 2004 and 2006. “I was fortunate it hit the hole.”

Reigning PGA Champion Y.E. Yang managed an even-par 72 and is eighth at five- under 139.

First-round leader Fred Couples battled his balky back on Friday morning and bogeyed the last three holes for a three-over 75. The 50-year-old three-time winner on the Champions Tour this year is certainly still in contention at three-under 141, but admitted it was the back that did him in on Friday.

“For a while I felt like I could go from first to last,” acknowledged Couples, the 1992 Masters champion. “But I kind of loosened up and I got it around.”

Sixty-year-old Tom Watson, whose 67 on Thursday was his lowest round at Augusta since 1997, struggled to a two-over 74 on Friday, but matched Couples and Soren Kjeldsen (71) at minus-three.

“It was a struggle today,” he admitted. “I’m disappointed that I didn’t do as well as I could have today.”

Poulter did about as well as anyone could have on Friday.

He broke into red figures with a birdie at the par-five second after his five- wood second landed in the middle of the green. Poulter’s next birdie came from eight feet at the eighth, then it was off to the back nine where he flew up the board.

At the famous, par-three 12th, Poulter hit an eight-iron to eight feet to set up birdie. He ran his eagle putt 10 feet past the hole at the par-five 13th, but the colorful Englishman hit the comeback putt for another birdie.

Poulter hit another strong eight-iron at 16 and the result was the same as No. 12. He drained an eight-foot birdie try and was nine-under par for the championship.

Trouble loomed at the last. Poulter pulled his five-iron approach shot and left himself with seven feet for par. His putt stayed above ground and Poulter walked off with a bogey at 18.

“I’m pleased that I gave myself so many chances, and I would say it’s one of best rounds of golf I’ve played in a while,” said Poulter.

It was at this year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship where Poulter earned his first win in the United States and first PGA Tour victory. He is the seventh-ranked golfer in the world and feels like he belongs on top of leaderboards at major championships.

“It’s helped a lot to win on this side of the pond, has made a big difference, and the fact that it was a WGC has given me an extra boost,” he said. “To be playing Augusta was in my dreams, and to be sitting at the top of the leaderboards was in my dreams, as well. So hopefully we can have a good weekend and be in a similar situation come Sunday night.”

He will battle his fellow countrymen, starting Saturday.

Westwood flew out of the gate with a tap-in eagle at two and a curling birdie putt at No. 3. He bogeyed five, but back-to-back birdies at six and seven got him to nine-under par.

After a bogey at 10 and a birdie at 11, Westwood two-putted for a birdie at 13. He was 10-under and two clear, but that evaporated quickly. A bad drive at 14 led to a double-bogey, but he got one stroke back with another two-putt birdie at 15.

Westwood was in the lead until yet another errant drive, this time at the last. His ball went way right and Westwood turned around to the gallery as if he was distracted by something.

He pitched out, then knocked his third on to the green, but it rolled down toward the front of the green. Westwood missed the putt, made bogey and will play in Saturday’s final pairing with his buddy.

“I don’t think it’ll be a factor at all,” said Westwood of playing with his friend in round three. “If anything it’ll help, but as golfers we go out there and concentrate on our own ball and not what the other guys do.”

NOTES: The 36-hole cut fell at three-over 147 and defending champion Angel Cabrera birdied the last to make it on the number…Padraig Harrington, Bernhard Langer, Rory McIlory, British Open champion Stewart Cink, Paul Casey, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk were the biggest names to miss the weekend.


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