AUGUSTA, Ga. — Friday at the Masters was a grind. For just about everyone but Patrick Reed.
On a day when Jordan Spieth started double bogey-bogey, Phil Mickelson matched his worst round ever at Augusta National and defending champ Sergio Garcia finished in a 16-over tie with a full-time firefighter, Patrick Reed crushed it. The brash-talking Texan who went to college just a few miles away at Augusta State, posted an incredible 6-under 66, pushing him to a 2-stroke lead over the field.
A stacked leaderboard
The two biggest names in the field aren’t within a Dustin Johnson driver of the top of the leaderboard, but just about every other big name is. Rory McIlroy (-4), Jordan Spieth (-4), Dustin Johnson (-3), Justin Thomas (-3), Rickie Fowler (-2), Bubba Watson (-2), Jon Rahm (-1) … to name a few.
It’s a who’s who of the World Golf Rankings: Six of the top eight players in the world are in the top 10, and the other two are only one and two strokes back.
What’s up with Tiger Woods?
That’s what everyone at Augusta National is wondering, including (presumably) Woods himself. His trouble off the tee continued Friday as it did Thursday, putting him in a constant scramble. Scrambles lead to bogies, not birdies, or, if you’re lucky, difficult pars. Just being 4-over and making the cut (by two strokes) has the feel of an accomplishment after all Tiger put himself through over the first two days. And while he will be playing Saturday and Sunday, a 13-stroke deficit isn’t one he’s making up.
Where’d Phil Mickelson go?
Into the trees. Mickelson rolled into Augusta with all kinds of promise, and talk swirled that 47-year-old Phil would snag the oldest-ever-to-win-the-Masters title from Jack Nicklaus. And for a moment, it looked like he might do it, sitting one stroke off the lead on the ninth hole. But Augusta has a way of having its way, and – perhaps in a bit of karmic retribution for Phil’s past from-the-trees glories – Mickelson fought the pines, and the pines won. Phil ended the day carding a 7-over 79, one of his worst rounds ever, and had to sweat out the cut at plus-5.
Who the heck is Marc Leishman (2nd, 7-under)?
The 2009 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Leishman has slowly become a real threat on Tour. The Australian won twice in 2017, and as this week’s play has shown, he’s got some game. His approach shot on 15 to set up a short eagle putt required stones the size of bowling balls, and he’ll enter the weekend in the final pairing. In five prior appearances at the Masters, his best finish is a T4 in 2013 … but he’s also got three cuts to go with that. This weekend will mark a turning point in his career, one way or another.
What’s the weather look like for Saturday?
Parental advisory: disturbing content ahead. Saturday’s forecast doesn’t look good at all. Rain is supposed to roll in by midmorning and continue the rest of the day. Will Augusta National bump up Saturday morning’s tee times? Group players by threes instead of twos? Whichever, Saturday’s likely to be a wet washout for most of the afternoon. Sorry, friends.
Who’s the favorite to win this now?
It’s hard to pick against Reed, beings that only two players are within five strokes of him. But the players at the five-stroke threshold are Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. And only one stroke behind them, Dustin Johnson. Spieth’s acumen at Augusta is unmatched in the current field, McIlroy is playing as steady as anyone and Johnson is capable of crumbling any course in the world.
So who’s the favorite? Let’s just say it’s still wide open.
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