Patrick Reed, the man who made himself “Public Enemy No 1” at the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, is out in front at the halfway stage in the 82nd Masters.
Leading the chase at Augusta National is Marc Leishman, the Australian who won one of Scotland’s top 72-hole events when he was still an amateur.
The pair were the leading lights on a difficult scoring day in the second round at Augusta National, where Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were among those to struggle.
Four-time winner Woods is 13 shots off the lead at the halfway stage while Mickelson, a three-time champion here, is a shot further back after scraping into the final two rounds.
Reed hadn’t broken 70 in his 12 previous rounds in the season’s opening major. He was a combined 21-over for his eight rounds over the past two years.
Yet, after opening efforts of 69 and 66 for a nine-under-par 135 total, he leads the battle for this year’s Green Jacket by two shots.
“I’ve kept myself out df trouble and allowed my putter to do the work,” said Reed of being out in front.
The 27-year-old started his second round with three straight birdies before repeating that feat to finish the front nine, which he covered in 31.
He did it for a third time with another birdie burst from the 15th to get to 10-under before dropping just his second shot of the day at the short 16th.
“I’m getting more comfortable with the golf course and, with the poor rounds I’ve had in the past, I’ve learned the importance of putting it in the right spots,” he added.
Reed made his Ryder Cup debut in that match in Scotland four years ago. He teamed up with Jordan Spieth to beat Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter in the opening session.
It was on the final day that he made himself hugely unpopular with the home crowd with a “shush” gesture during the singles against Henrik Stenson.
That was just the competitor in coming out, though, and the Texan was the US talisman as they triumphed in the 2016 match at Hazeltine.
His best finish in a major was in the last one, finishing joint-second behind Justin Thomas in the 2017 US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
“I should be fine,” he said to being asked about his nerves heading into the weekend. “I’ve been in this position before in big events and will keep trying to play smart golf.”
Reed certainly has the game to go on and become a first-time major winner from this position but he will need to hold off some big guns over the final 36 holes.
Leishman leads the chase after he backed up an encouraging first-day 70 with a 67 that was illuminated by an eagle at the 15th.
The 34-year-old Australian turned a 5-iron around a line of trees to six feet and rolled in the putt, having earlier matched Reed’s blistering start with three straight birdies.
“I gave it a go and it came off,” said Leishman of setting up that eagle at a hole where he’d taken 7 the previous day. “My iron play has been pretty good so far this week and I’ve also putted really well, which is important around this place.”
He finished joint-fourth here in 2014 behind Bubba Watson but missed the cut three times in his previous five appearances. Heading into the weekend, though, he will be encouraged by the fact he’s been in the mix in a major in the past.
In the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrews, he came up just short in the Claret Jug joust, losing out in a play-off to Zach Johnson.
Earlier in his career, Leishman did finish at the top of a leaderboard in Scotland, getting his hands on the Tennant Cup, an event hosted by Glasgow Golf Club at Gailes Links and Killermont in Glasgow.
Another man who has tasted victory in Scotland is heading into the weekend lying third on five-under.
2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson hasn’t managed a top-10 finish in his previous 12 appearances here but that could be about to change.
The Swede signed for five birdies in his second-day 70 and will be drawing on how well he played to win an epic battle with Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon as he bids to claim a second major.
The chasing pack is tasty, with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth both on four-under and world No 1 Dustin Johnson a shot further back.
Justin Rose, last year’s runner-up, is on two-under, as is two-time winner Bubba Watson, but Woods has a mountain to climb in his bid to claim a fifth Green Jacket.
In his first major since undergoing spinal fusion surgery, the 42-year-old started his second round with a bogey before hitting his approach into trees through the back of the green at the fifth and running up a double-bogey 6.
He visited Rae’s Creek for the second day running at the short 12th before signing for a 75.
“I need a special weekend and also some help,” said the 14-time major winner afterwards. “I need something in the mid-60s tomorrow and hopefully the same thing on Sunday.”
Mickelson came into this event with high hopes of becoming the oldest champion at 47 after winning the WGC-Mexico Championship earlier in the year.
He was tied for the lead on two-under after eight holes but ran up a triple-bogey at the ninth after hitting a tree and ending up in a bush. He also took a double-bogey at the 12th, ending up with a 79 to sit on five-over.
“It was a rough day,” said Mickelson. “It’s disappointing. I know the opportunities here are lessening here and especially given as well as I’ve been playing, I thought this was a great year, a great opportunity.”
Among those to miss the cut were 1988 winner Sandy Lyle, defending champion Sergio Garcia and Ryder Cup hopeful Alex Noren.
Lyle, who covered the last six holes in three-under, agonisingly missed out by a shot on the 30th anniversary of him becoming the first British player to win here.
Noren, who has been in great form this season on the PGA, finished three shots below the mark while Garcia was unable to recover from the 13 he ran up at the 15th in the opening round.