Tiger Woods continues his remarkable comeback from severe leg injuries Friday with an afternoon tee time at the Masters, the legend firmly in title contention early in the second round. The 15-time major champion battled through pain to walk the hilly 7,510-yard Augusta National layout, firing a one-under par 71 in Thursday’s opening round to share 10th. “I’m right where I need to be,” Woods said. Woods was four strokes behind South Korean leader Im Sung-jae after 18 holes and remained that far adrift in breezy conditions early Friday.

A botched chip cost Im a bogey at the first hole but he sank a 24-foot birdie putt at the par-4 third to return to 5-under, one stroke ahead of late-starting Australian Cameron Smith and 2020 Masters winner Dustin Johnson, who opened on 69 and sank a six-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fourth.

“I have the stamina to keep going,” Woods said. “There’s a long way to go and a lot of shots to be played.

“This golf course is going to change and it’s going to get a lot more difficult.”

Woods made an astonishing return to competition 14 months after a car crash in Southern California caused him severe right leg injuries.

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Rods, plates and pins help hold together his leg after he was hospitalized for weeks and unable to walk for months.

Rehabilitation work has allowed the 46-year-old medical marvel to make an epic comeback at an iconic setting.

“I’m as sore as I expected to feel, but it was amazing,” Woods said.

Woods, tied for 10th after the first round, was set to tee off at 1:41 p.m. (1741 GMT) in Friday’s third-to-last group alongside Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and Joaquin Niemann of Chile.

Between rounds, Woods soaked his leg in icy water to ease the swelling while trying to keep it strong for Friday shotmaking.

“Lots of ice baths. Just basically freezing myself to death. That’s just part of the deal,” Woods said. “Getting all the swelling out as best as we possibly can and getting it mobile and warmed up, activated and explosive for the next day.”

Im shot 67 Thursday for a one-stroke lead over Smith, with whom he shared second behind Johnson at the 2020 Masters, played in November due to Covid-19. That was the last top-level event Woods had played before Thursday.

‘Electric’ atmosphere

Thousands of spectators lined every hole of the famed course Thursday to cheer Woods in his amazing quest to capture a record-tying sixth green jacket after once fearing he might lose his leg.

“Walking is not easy,” Woods said. “With all the hard work, my leg, it’s going to be difficult for the rest of my life. That’s just the way it is, but I’m able to do it.”

Woods drew energy from the crowd of supporters over the same layout where he won his first major title 25 years ago and claimed his most recent major title in 2019 — when he completed an amazing comeback after spinal fusion surgery.

“The place was electric,” Woods said. “To have that type of energy out there was awesome to feel.”

Woods, who has slid to 973rd in world rankings, would match the all-time Masters win record of Jack Nicklaus with a victory and break the record he shares with Sam Snead of 82 career US PGA victories.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, seeking a green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam, chipped his approach at the par-5 second to two feet and made a birdie putt to reach level par for the tournament after an opening 73.

McIlroy hasn’t won a major title since 2014.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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