AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Sometimes, perfection is not all that it is cracked up to be. Tiger Woods had just the right club, just the right line, just the right trajectory that his 60-degree wedge shot went straight at the flagstick on the 15th hole. It hit the stick, which caused trouble.
The ball caromed hard and rolled back into the water, turning an easy birdie into a hard- earned bogey. Possibly it was a sign that the fates aren't quite behind him, or maybe it was the rub of the green. It did halt his momentum and added a different kind of excitement, heading to the weekend at the Masters. Woods is 3 under par, three behind the lead of Jason Day, who knows that one swing can change the whole picture.
"It just feels like every shot is the biggest shot you've ever hit in your life," said Day, a 25-year-old Australian very familiar with the fact no Australian ever has won the Masters. "Obviously there's a lot of pressure on my shoulders but I've just got to try to get that out of my mind and just plug away."
After shooting 4-under-par 68, the best round of the day, he said, "I know there are a lot of good players behind me that are going to play well."
That would include countryman Marc Leishman, who is one shot back and tied for second with Fred Couples. It also means Angel Cabrera, a former Masters champion who birdied five of the final six holes on a day when the wind was strong and the greens were hard. It also takes in the likes of Adam Scott and Justin Rose, at 3 under, and Rory McIlroy, who used an eagle on the eighth hole to surge back into contention at 2 under.
Most of all, the list includes Woods, who was tied for the lead until his terrific shot on No. 15.
"It was a nice little soft 60 [degree wedge], a little cutter in there," Woods said. "The wind was, at the time, coming off the right and I just tried to hold it in there. And I did. The sun was in my eyes, so I knew I started the ball on the flag. I didn't know if I cut it enough, but evidently it was a really good one."
Good enough to be bad. He hit the same pitch again, got it close and made the 4-foot putt for a bogey 6.
The stroke of bad luck was evidence of how hard it is to win any major, let alone 14, which he has done. "I played a good round today, which should have been in the 60s," he said after his 71.
"There's a long way to go," Woods said. "We've got 36 holes and this is a tricky test."
Day knows that the key is to hold steady when the tricks turn against you. He had his own water moment, leaving the club face open just a shade on the par-3 12th, the ball hitting on the bank and rolling back into the water.
"It was actually a very, very good up-and-down there for a bogey," he said, happy to have rebounded right away with a birdie on the par-5 13th. He made another birdie on No. 16.
"I'm very excited for the challenge over the next two days," said the player who finished tied for second at the 2011 Masters. "You know, it's exciting, it really is exciting to have the opportunity to win the Masters. I'm very, very happy where I am right now."