World No 1 Scottie Scheffler five shots clear in 86th Masters
On another testing day at Augusta National due to a blustery wind, man-of-the-moment Scheffler justified his billing heading into the season’s opening major by backing up an opening 69 with a joint-best-of-the-day 67 to sit on eight-under.
The 25-year-old, who has already won three times this year, including the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, leads by five from defending champion Hideki Matsuyama (69), 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel (69), Irishman Shane Lowry (68) and first-round leader Sungjae Im (74).
Dustin Johnson, the 2020 winner, is in a group on two-under, but the chasing pack could have their work cut out if Scheffler continues to ride on the crest of a wave.
Five shots equals the largest halfway lead in this tournament and four of the five players in that position have gone on to win the Green Jacket.
"I feel like my game is in a good spot,” said the leader. “I've done a good job managing my way around the golf course the last two days, and I've made some really nice up and downs and key putts that have kept my rounds going. I've kept my cards pretty clean for the most part, which is nice.”
Scheffler, who has finished in the top 20 in his two starts here so far, opened with a bogey before the confidence flowing through his game at the moment was illustrated by birdies at the second, seventh, eighth, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th.
"Once I saw that I took the lead at one point today, my first thought was to just keep trying to build it just because I feel like I'm playing well,” he added. “That will be the goal going into tomorrow, just to keep putting myself in good positions, execute shots and, as long as I'm committed to everything, everything should be fine. The rest really isn't up to me.”
Woods, who had marked his first appearance since being badly injured in a car crash 14 months ago with an impressive 71, dropped four shots in the opening five holes in the second circuit.
But, just as some people were starting to fear that he wasn’t up to the physical test of playing on an undulating course like the Georgia venue, the five-time winner turned his day around.
He mixed four birdies with two bogeys in the remainder of his round to sign for a 74 and, though sitting nine shots off the lead, a dream comeback is still a possibility for the 46-year-old.
“I’ve got a chance going into the weekend and hopefully I can have one of those lightbulb moments and turn it on,” said Woods.
“It’s going to be tough again tomorrow and I need to handle my business and get into red to give myself a chance on the back nine on Sunday.”
On a day when the wind gusted up to 30mph at one point before dropping late in the day, 2019 Open champion Lowry started with a bogey before making birdies at the second, seventh, tenth, 13th and 15th as he signed for a 68.
“It was one of the best rounds of my career,” said the Irishman, who hasn’t made the top 20 in six previous starts here.
“It was so hard out there and I managed to play some good golf and hole some nice putts at the right times. I'm in a great position going into the weekend.”
Justin Thomas, the 2017 US PGA champion, started the day in 70th but is up to joint-10th after firing a 67 that contained six birdies, including three in a row on the back nine.
Cameron Smith, who started the day one off the lead, is now six back after having to settle for a 74 that was salvaged a bit by two birdies in the last four holes.
Bob MacIntyre, who tied for 12th on his debut last year, sits alongside 2017 winner Sergio Garcia, as well as Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, in a tie for 23rd on two-over.
Jordan Spieth, the 2015 winner, missed the cut, as did four-time major champion Brooks Koepka.
Spieth’s shock early exit came after he put two balls in the water at the 12th, as he did when, as the defending champion, he was in the lead.
Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 US champion, also made an early exit after a second-round 80 left him on 12-over on a course he once described as being a par-67 to him.
All six amateurs in the field, including St Andrews-based Laird Shepherd, missed the cut, which fell at four-over as a total of 52 players progressed to the final 36 holes.
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