As is often the case at Augusta National, former Masters champions were the story on Friday at golf’s first major, but not only did a couple of unexpected names appear near the top of the leaderboard, a few current stars went the opposite way.
Bubba Watson was incredible on the back nine, going through a stretch of five consecutive holes with a birdie before dropping a shot on the 18th and finishing at 7-under par. Coming into the day, the thought was that we would see the leader be around what Bill Haas was at yesterday, meaning 4 or maybe 5-under par. The course played about a stroke easier today than it did on Thursday, so that went in Watson’s favour, but the bogey on the last hole where he missed a pretty short putt is probably going to be sitting in his mind at least a little bit. The one thing to keep in mind with Watson is that he hasn’t had the best of success when trying to close out a win, as he is 1-for-8 in his career when holding a 36-hole lead. That combined with Augusta National being very difficult, means that this is far from a certainty.
Mike Weir is a Canadian sports icon, and he’s been one since he won this tournament in 2003, but he’s had very little success since. A combination of swing changes and an inability to stay healthy have kept him from staying at the top of the professional game, but he turned back the clock on Friday. After opening with a 1-over par 73 in the first round, Weir got it up to 3-under par for the tournament before falling back down to even par for the day, and 1-over par for the tournament. Still though, it was nice to see a quality round overall from a player who has struggled so much in recent years, and if he can keep it together for the weekend, he can earn some much needed world ranking points to send him back up the list.
Couples keeps going
You know, one of these years, people are going to stop being so surprised that Fred Couples turns back the clock at Augusta and makes a run at this thing. He won here back in 1992 when he got the most fortunate break in the history of the 12th hole, as his ball somehow stayed out of Rae’s Creek and held up in the rough. It’s something that hadn’t happened before, and really, hasn’t happened since either. Sure enough, today:
I have no doubt that Couples will fade on the weekend as he usually does these days when he’s not playing on the Champions Tour, but he always makes this thing fun to watch and at only five back, he’s got a chance.
Scott’s slow start and great finish
If there was one thing that really surprised me on Friday, it was the way that Adam Scott struggled to start, with three bogeys in his first five holes, but he got it back together as he headed out onto the back nine, making birdies on 12, 13 and 15 to get back into contention and within four shots of Watson. Perhaps more importantly for CBS, it gave the leaderboard another big name as many of the other stars struggled on Friday. Speaking of which…
Phil Mickelson’s MC
Phil Mickelson missed the cut here for the first time since 1997, but to be honest, he didn’t really play all that bad, especially today. He put up a pair of sevens on Thursday, and a triple bogey six on the par-3 12th today that saw him hit three consecutive bunker shots is what killed him. If you knock those down to just bogeys, Mickelson’s at even par and looking at moving up the board on Saturday. He says he’s healthy and over the oblique problem that saw him withdraw at the Valero, but I’m not sure I buy that, especially after watching him hit an iron from the tee on the par-5 8th on Thursday. He’s mentioned several times about how he’s going to be cutting down his schedule to prepare for the U.S. Open, so it’s going to be interesting to see when he decides to tee it up again.
The course setup appeared to be a lot more reasonable today than it was on Thursday, but there were still quite a few tucked pins that were made even more difficult when the wind picked up at points during the round. There was even a brand new pin on the 5th that had never been used in the tournament prior to today, which is something I never thought I’d see at this point. Expect the course to be set up quite difficultly through the weekend, with the traditional Saturday and Sunday pins.
As always, the weekend at the Masters is going to be fun to watch.