Tiger Woods was facing a make or break day at the Masters on Saturday.
Two under for the tournament at the halfway stage after rounds of 70 and 72, the world No 1 stands seven strokes behind co-leaders Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry in a tie for 19th place.
His largest deficit at this stage of the tournament before rallying for victory was in 2005 when he clawed back a six-stroke deficit to defeat Crhis DiMarco in a playoff.
It will take a much improved Woods at Augusta National to better that feat and in so doing secure himself a fifth green jacket.
He has been inconsistent off the tee so far in this Masters and his normally reliable putting has been in tatters, leaving him tied for 72nd out of 96 starters in that category.
A terse Woods still holds out hope that he can keep alive his majors Grand Slam hopes at the weekend.
“I have got to play a bit better than I have,” he said. “Make a few more putts and clean up the round.”
Stewart Cink, who played with Woods in the first two rounds, has no doubts his US Ryder Cup teammate can turn it around.
“He’ll get a run going and I’m sure he’ll be in contention again,” Cink said.
Both Campbell and Perry will be bidding to win their first majors and if Perry, 48 years and eight months old, succeeds he will be the oldest player ever to win a major, erasing from the record books Julius Boros - who won the the 1968 US PGA at 48 years and four months.
The Kentuckian certainly believes he can keep it going.
“I think I can win,” he said after adding a five-under 67 to his opening 68. “I’m still burning inside, wanting to kick everybody’s butt. I’ve got a will inside of me.”
The penultimate group out comprised two players who have each won one major and then fallen on hard times.
Angel Cabrera of Argentina, who is just one shot off the lead on 136, has done little since winning the US Open in 2007, while Todd Hamilton, a further two shots back, has been in the shadows since winning the 2004 British Open.
There were other subplots to watch for on a Saturday which saw perfect sunny conditions greet the 50 survivors after a night of violent thunderstorms and torrential rain.
Two-time former winner Phil Mickelson battled his way back into contention with a 68 to stand just six off the lead while Spain’s Sergio Garcia heads the European challenge on 140.
World No2 Mickelson said after his second round that Saturday could be tough on the players.
“I think that the goal is to make it tough tomorrow and then try to let the guys light it up on Sunday,” Mickelson said. “So you can only do what the course gives you.”
Also well in the hunt were 23-year-old American Anthony Kim, whose 11 birdies on Friday were a Masters record, and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who maintains hope of becoming just the third player in history to win three majors in a row.