Woods a step behind leaders

Woods a step behind leaders

Golf Augusta Masters: Westwood, Poulter two shots ahead of American master

Woods a step behind leaders

Pace-setter: Lee Westwood in action during the second round of the Augusta Masters on Friday. AFP

Looking composed at one of his favourite venues and showing no hint of rust in his first tournament for nearly five months, the world number one ground out a two-under 70 to end a difficult day of scoring just two shots off the lead. Engaging with the Augusta fans at every opportunity in glorious spring sunshine, Woods rolled in a 20-foot putt at the 13th before sinking a 12-footer at the 15th on the way to a six-under total of 138.
The four-times champion, whose troubled private life appears to have had no effect on his golf, will go into Saturday's third round headed only by British pacesetters Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.

Poulter fired a five-birdie 68, his only blemish coming at the last where he missed a seven-foot par putt, while Westwood briefly got to 10-under before losing momentum over the closing stretch for a 69.  "It feels good to be back and in contention," Woods told reporters after finishing level with playing partner KJ Choi of South Korea (71) and Americans Phil Mickelson (71), Anthony Kim (70) and Ricky Barnes (70).

"I usually put myself in contention most years here and this year I'm right there. We've got 36 more holes and I'm sure the golf course, they are not going to make it easy for us."

Westwood, winner of last year's Dubai World Championship and the European Order of Merit, believes his time has come after a couple of close calls in Majors during 2008 and 2009.

"It's the only thing really missing in my career," said the world number four, whose roller-coaster round included an eagle at the second and a double-bogey at the tricky 14th.
Woods, again watched by huge galleries on his highly anticipated return to competition, offset a birdie at the second with a bogey at the par-three fourth to reach the turn in level-par 36. 

Unusually, Woods wore sunglasses in between every shot due to the glare and high pollen count. After teeing off at the par-three sixth Woods spotted a young boy wearing a baseball cap with 'TW' emblazoned on the front and he put a huge grin on the youngster's face by giving him a friendly hand slap as he walked by. Having negotiated the first 12 holes in even par, he surged up the leaderboard amid roars of 'Go Tiger' with his birdies at 13 and 15, the first of them prompting him to raise his putter skywards in celebration.

Second round leading scores (US unless mentioned): 136: Ian Poulter (Bri) (68, 68), Lee Westwood (Bri) (67, 69); 138: Tiger Woods (68, 70), KJ Choi (Kor) (67, 71), Ricky Barnes (68, 70), Anthony Kim (68, 70), Phil Mickelson (67, 71); 139: Yang Yong-eun (Kor) (67, 72); 141: Soren Kjeldsen (Den) (70, 71), Fred Couples (66, 75), Tom Watson (67, 74).