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Round 2 review: The Masters

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    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    AUGUSTA, Ga. – The wind swirled, flags whipped, and scores soared.

    Well, except for Scottie Scheffler – and a few others.



    The second round of the 86th Masters Tournament was about survival for many, a day to forget for others, and a time to pull away from the pack for the hottest player in golf.

    Here are the top stories from Day 2 at Augusta National.

    THE LEADER

    Scottie Scheffler just keeps right on going.

    The newly appointed No. 1 player in the world, and the No. 1 player in the FedExCup, Scheffler came into this week having won three times in his last five starts. All he did on Friday was shoot 67 – tied for best round of the day – to reach 8 under going into the weekend.

    That means Scheffler has a five-shot lead over Charl Schwartzel (69), Sungjae Im (74), Shane Lowry (68), and defending champion Hideki Matsuyama (69).

    Jason Day was the last player to win four times in six starts, in 2015.

    STORYLINES

    Wind gusts create havoc: Garrick Higgo shot 83, Abraham Ancer 79, and Jordan Spieth triple-bogeyed the 12th hole on the way to a 76. Tiger Woods looked for direction from the swaying trees as he bogeyed four of the first five holes.

    It was that kind of day.

    “It's just sort of one of those days that, even the 10-footers are sort of difficult,” said Rory McIlroy, who shot his second straight 73 to go into the weekend at 2 over par. “Because the wind's gusting and you're thinking, 'Is it going to affect the putt? Is it not?'

    “And just getting settled over it,” he continued. “Just one of those days in these conditions where it unsettles you a little bit and puts a little bit of doubt in your mind.”

    McIlroy’s round threatened to unravel completely shortly after he made the turn. He bogeyed the 10th hole and double-bogeyed the 11th as he came to the guessing game that is the par-3 12th.

    “And in front of us, Jordan (Spieth) hit two in the water, so that wasn't a great visual either,” McIlroy said. “And then Brooks (Koepka) hit it first and hit it straight over the green. The wind died.

    “It's just, it's so up and down. I'm glad to be off the course at this point.”

    Harold Varner III in contention: Masters rookie Harold Varner III shot his second straight 71 and at 2 under par overall will go into the weekend six back.

    Only three Masters rookies have won, most recently 43 years ago, and Varner is still seeking his first PGA TOUR victory. A Jordan brand athlete, he said he has to give Michael Jordan himself eight shots when they play but, as per Jordan’s dictum, he’ll have to give 10 shots after he wins.

    “He's obviously given me awesome sponsorship, but he's been a great friend,” said Varner, who has played the par-5 second and 13th holes in a combined 5 under. “I've asked him all kinds of questions, business questions, hung out with him here and there. So that means a lot more to me.

    “I think everyone just sees the logo, and they're like, 'That's super cool,'” Varner continued. “He's the greatest athlete. But for me, just being able to pick up the phone and call him has been the best part of the relationship.”

    Charl Schwartzel turns back clock: Charl Schwartzel called his 72-69 start, “the two best ball-striking rounds I've had in a very long time.” He said he got fortunate Friday morning, when he played the first six holes in cold but relatively calm conditions.

    As for his lackluster record elsewhere, he struggled to explain it.

    “Hands were a little too active,” he said. Then, later, he added, “Mind is too active.”

    Whatever the case, it’s been a season to forget so far for 2011 Masters champ Schwartzel. An 11-time DP World Tour winner and two-time PGA TOUR winner – most recently at the 2016 Valspar Championship – Schwartzel had missed six straight cuts on TOUR when he came to the site of his greatest victory. He’s 172nd in the Official World Golf Ranking.

    As part of his preparation for this week, Schwartzel, 37, watched footage of his Masters victory 11 years ago, when he closed with four straight birdies. The goal, he said, was to give himself a hard reset, “to erase all the last couple of weeks, the results.” So far, so good.

    Bubba Watson authors another miracle: It would be hard to top Bubba Watson’s physics-defying wedge shot that hooked around the trees and won him the 2012 Masters, but it may have happened Friday.“I'll be honest,” Watson said after signing for a 73. “Not that you want to know, but that was the best shot I've ever hit at Augusta National, that one right there.”

    The adventure began when Watson missed his drive right at the tight par-4 18th hole. When he got to his ball, he found it was in a nest of leaves and sticks. He found a tiny gap high in the trees and was ready to aim for it when a gust of wind blew another leaf over the top of his ball. With a rules official looking on, he carefully removed the leaf so he could at least see the ball.

    Then he swung as hard as he could.

    “It was a pitching wedge from 138 as high as I could hit it,” said Watson, who will go into the weekend at 2 over par and still with an outside chance. “And somehow it went a foot from the hole. They all said, 'Good shot,' the guys I was playing with. I said, 'Where did it go?'”

    Thinking he was destined to double-bogey the hole to finish 5 over par, which would have put him in danger of missing the cut, Watson tapped in for birdie and a 2-over total.

    “Stop it,” ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt said on air. “That is outrageous.”

    NOTABLES

    JUSTIN THOMAS (67, 1 under) – After posting a deflating first-round 76, rallied with one of the best rounds of the day to get into red numbers and give himself an outside chance going into the weekend.

    JON RAHM (72, 2 over) – He birdied the first two holes but gave those shots back and will go into the weekend at 2 over. Asked what he’s most encouraged by so far, he said, “That somehow I'm still not far from the lead, because I haven't played good at all.”

    JORDAN SPIETH (76, 6 over) – Among the pre-tournament favorites, Spieth hit two balls in the water at the par-3 12th hole, which sunk his chances in 2016, and will miss the cut.

    RORY MCILROY (73, 2 over) – Still needs to win the Masters for the career Grand Slam, and went 2 under for his last seven holes to make the cut at 2 over.

    CAMERON SMITH (74, 2 under) – After ending his first round with a double bogey, the PLAYERS champ picked up where he left off with a front-nine 39. Steadied himself on the back, but suddenly finds himself six shots behind going into the weekend.

    BRYSON DeCHAMBEAU (80, 12 over) – Has missed significant time this season with hand and hip injuries, and never looked 100 percent healthy at this Masters.

    WORTH WATCHING

    BY THE NUMBERS

    24 – Holes-in-one at the 16th hole, by far the most of any of the par-3s at Augusta National, after Stewart Cink made another with an 8-iron from 166 yards.

    6 – Holes-in-one by Cink since the PGA TOUR began keeping track in 1983.

    22 – Consecutive Masters cuts made by Tiger Woods (74), who bogeyed four of his first five holes but steadied himself the rest of the way.

    23 – Consecutive Masters cuts made by Fred Couples and Gary Player, who share the record.

    SUPERLATIVES

    Longest average driving distance: Rory McIlroy (327.0)

    Most fairways hit: Bernhard Langer (27/28)

    Most greens hit: Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton (29/36)

    Lowest average proximity: Cameron Smith (31’11’’)

    Scrambling: Matthew Fitzpatrick (10/12)

    Fewest putts: Justin Thomas, 52

    Lowest score: 67, by Scottie Scheffler and Justin Thomas

    Most birdies or better: 11, Scottie Scheffler