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From cut line to leaderboard

Tiger Woods' rally nearly ends before it starts, as he narrowly avoids early exit.

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2003

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods made his move up the leaderboard on Saturday afternoon. He almost didn't have that chance.

Needing par at the ninth hole, the 18th of his second round, Woods hit his tee shot into the trees, his approach shot into a greenside bunker and was left with a testy 3-footer.

If he missed the putt, Woods would miss the cut and any chance at his third straight Masters.

"That putt I had on the last hole, either it was going in or it was going off the green," Woods said. "One of the two."

Woods drilled it into the back of the cup and made the 36-hole cut on the number at 149, 5-over par. It was his 102nd straight cut made on the PGA Tour, but it left him 11 strokes behind leader Mike Weir and tied for 43rd.

By the end of the third round, some eight hours later, Woods was tied for fifth, four behind Jeff Maggert after 6-under 66. And it's all the more amazing when you consider how much Woods struggled Saturday morning.

He missed excellent birdie putts at the second and third, double-bogeyed the fourth, bogeyed the sixth, and after birdie at the seventh he made bogey at the par-5 eighth, where he missed a 3-foot par putt that turned into a 6-footer for bogey. If he had missed that, he'd have needed to birdie the ninth to make the cut.

"From the second hole things just got progressively worse, and then all of a sudden I'm compounded with the problem that I need to get up and down to make the cut," Woods said after the second round. "But I'm in, and you never know.

"It is really hard to move away if you are leading. It is tough. I have been there, and it is not easy to do it."

Woods called it correct. And after a improvement of 10 strokes over his opening round, Woods had shot at a third straight green jacket.

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