Woods in good position for a run at a 4th consecutive major title - his 70-66 start is the same as when he won at Augusta in 1997.
By BOB HARIG
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 7, 2001
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The advantages are too numerous to count, the skills so superior. Tiger Woods gets into contention, and those chasing him are running on a treadmill. To know you cannot make a mistake with Woods on his game makes the task all the more daunting.
Then there is this: Woods has been there, done that. He's won the major championships that others so dearly covet. He knows how to win, they can only hope.
And it is with that in mind that Woods will again stalk history this weekend at the Masters.
With 6-under-par 66 at Augusta National on Friday, Woods put himself in perfect position for a run at a fourth consecutive major title, two shots behind Orlando's Chris DiMarco.
Woods, who has won five majors, will be paired today with DiMarco, who is playing in his fifth. Of the nine players who trail them, only three have won major titles.
"It does help. It does make you feel more at ease," said Woods, whose 70-66 start is the same as when he won in 1997. "I've been there before. I've won majors and lost majors. I know how to control my emotions, what to expect, what to feel.
"If you haven't been there, it's tough. I was very fortunate the year I won my first major (at the '97 Masters). I happened to play great and separate myself. Obviously (DiMarco) is playing great and my hat's off to him."
DiMarco is just the fifth Masters rookie to lead after 36 holes. He shot 69 to finish at 10-under 134. Woods' 66 was his best Masters score since a third-round 65 in 1997. Phil Mickelson, in search of his first major, tied Woods with 69. Five players were a shot behind Woods and Mickelson at 137: David Duval (66), Lee Janzen (70), Japan's Toshi Izawa (66) and Argentina's Angel Cabrera.
Of that group, only Janzen has won a major (two U.S. Opens), but none since 1998. Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and former British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia were tied with Kirk Triplett at 138.
With one PGA Tour victory, DiMarco, 32, appears to be out of his league with the likes of Woods (26 wins), Duval (12), Mickelson (18) and Janzen (8). Asked if he believed he belonged, DiMarco said: "I guess I do this week. Sure, why not? Before Woods and Duval were Woods and Duval, they had to get there. Maybe this is my week to get there."
DiMarco, who won last year's Pennsylvania Classic, would be the second since 1935 to win his Masters debut. And he never has played a tournament round with Woods. Several years ago they were paired during a practice round when Woods was an amateur.
"I thought, "Man, he's pretty aggressive. He's got a lot to learn," DiMarco said. "He's learned pretty well."
Woods came into the Masters off consecutive wins at the Bay Hill Invitational and Players Championship and also having won last year's U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. No player in the modern era has won four consecutive majors.
"The bottom line is he has to play the course, too," DiMarco said. "He's got a lot going this week, also. The way he plays with the pressure that's on him is amazing. That's all anybody's talked about is to get four majors for the slam. He's such a momentum guy, he's all business. I'm going to try and do the same thing. I don't think there will be much chit-chat, I can tell you that."
As good as the 66 was by Woods, he may have even left a few shots on the course. He narrowly missed eagle at the eighth hole, had a good chance for birdie at the 10th, and three-putted from 15 feet for bogey at 16. But he came right back and birdied Nos. 17 and 18.
Mickelson overcame bogey at the 10th and double bogey at the 12th by birdieing 13, 15 and 16. He also saved par from a bunker at No. 18.
"I don't think there has ever been a better opportunity to break through and win a major than this event right now," said Mickelson, who is playing in his 30th major as a pro. "I feel like I know what decisions to make and how to manage my game around Augusta National. I think that this weekend provides the best opportunity for me."
Except for the guy holding five championship trophies ... and counting.