by Jeff Skinner
Augusta National played like Augusta National again today and frustrated many of the best golfers in the world. Firm and fast greens seemed to be the demise of many of the big names as shot after shot looked to want to settle anywhere except on the green.
Statistically the course played slightly easier today with an average score of 74.08 compared to 74.47 yesterday. But don’t ask Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Ernie Els if it was easier. They all will be watching the next two rounds on television as they all missed the cut. That being said there were plenty of hits today at The Masters and a fair share of misses also.
Bubba Watson holds a three stroke lead and is doing everything right. He is driving it long (299yds), hitting fairways (71%), hitting greens (78%) and is putting with confidence. More significantly, Bubba looks comfortable and relaxed and I saw two interviews he gave today and there wasn’t a single tear shed. That’s bad news for the field.
Cheers to Mike Weir who shot 73-72 to make the cut and sits tied for twenty-first. The 2003 Masters champion has battled injuries for years and it is wonderful to see him back, playing well at Augusta.
Adam Scott had a rough start with three bogeys in his first five holes to fall down the leaderboard. But the affable Aussie stuck with it and found some birdies on the back nine to shoot an even par 72. He’s only four shots off the lead and a true thoroughbred looking to win another Masters.
Fred Couples works wonders on this course. The 54 year old says Augusta is his favorite place in the world and it shows. Matching 71’s the first two rounds have him T7 and five shots off the lead. Not bad for a senior.
Thomas Bjorn matched Watson and two others for low round of the day at 68. The Great Dane, 43 has seven career top ten finishes in major championships and would love to make this his first major win.
First timers continue to do well at Augusta as three of them have finished in the top seven. Jonas Blixt T3, Jordan Spieth T3 and Jimmy Walker T7 are trying win The Masters in their first start. Fuzzy Zoeller was the last to do it in 1979.
Props to two time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw. No, not for making the cut, he finished dead last at 24 over. But for once again teaming with his go-to caddy at The Masters. Carl Jackson has caddied for Crenshaw at every Masters Gentle Ben has played and was on the bag of both of Ben’s wins. Jackson is 67 and this is his 53 Masters, not bad. Now Ben and he are close and Ben helped old Carl a bit today: He jettisoned his big, heavy tour bag for a lightweight one to ease the load on Carl. That’s friendship.
All week we heard about all the young bucks vying to claim their first Masters title. Well how about a cheer for the old dudes. Six players over 50 years old made the cut. Freddy leads the pack of Larry Mize, Bernhard Langer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Sandy Lyle and Vijay Singh. Sometimes experience pays off.
Misses…and Missed Cuts
For the second day in a row Phil Mickelson was done in by a triple bogey. On number twelve today he went from bunker to bunker to bunker and struggled to a six on the par three. Two 7’s yesterday and his triple today sent Phil packing. You can’t win majors with 7’s on your scorecard. Phil had made 16 straight cuts at Augusta.
Rory McIlroy struggled both days but managed to make the cut on the number. But he did have a real bit of misfortune on the thirteenth when his approach hit a sprinkler head on the edge of the green and bounded into the flowers and shrubs behind the green. That led to a bogey on a par five, a sin, which he had birdied yesterday.
I can’t remember a major where so many high profile players missed the cut and many of them were mentioned as pre-tournament favorites. Phil, Luke Donald, Sergio, Ernie, Webb Simpson, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner all are going home early. That’s a lot of star power.