By Teddy Allen
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- If you’ve got a ticket to get into Augusta National or a television that works, odds are you’re in for a fairly exciting Saturday. Things are getting awfully dicey here at the 2013 Masters.
The leaderboard is a logjam of big names. Equate it to college football and what you’ve got within five strokes of the lead is a bunch of BCS teams – minus bowl crashers Marc Leishman and Masters rookie David Lynn.
It ended up being Jason Day, the 2011 Masters runner-up, who used three birdies on the back Friday to finally take a solo lead no one could quite get a handle on. Day’s 68 was the day’s best round and put him at 6-under. He leads by one stroke lead over Leishman, the co-leader after round one, and fan favorite Fred Couples, who shot 34 on the back, finished with a 71 and actually led the tournament for about an hour during the afternoon.
Couples might have grabbed the lead and held it, but he was finished shooting his 71 by 2:30 when all the fun started. And Leishman might have kept the lead had he not shot a 73, seven shots worse than what he shot Thursday.
Sergio Garcia, Thursday’s other co-leader, was no threat as he went off early and struggled to a 76. Dustin Johnson, who started with a 67 Thursday, had the lead for a few fleeting moments Friday before manufacturing a blueprint for losing a lead: he finished bogey, double-bogey, par, bogey, double-bogey. He’s 5 strokes back and, you would think, staggering somewhere.
Jim Furyk could have held a share of the lead had he not dumped a shot in the water on 15 and doubled. Instead, he’s tied with Angel Cabrera and Brent Snedeker at 4-under.
The names at 3-under are each notable: Adam Scott, Jason Dufner, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, K.J. Choi and a guy chasing his fifth Masters green jacket, Tiger Woods.
For a good while Friday, it seemed Tiger would make a run. Especially after three birdies in four holes on the front.
But on the back, he was too busy saving things to gain stuff. His sand saves at 12 and 16 and a par save after flying the green at 14 were vintage, big-game Tiger. His biggest save might have been his bogey at 15: After his approach hit the stick and went back into the water, he hit a wedge to five feet and made the putt for a 6.
But then, an oops moment: for the first time in his Masters career, he three-putted the 18th green. Tiger was the only player in the field not to have made a bogey Friday until his tough luck on 15 and his hiccup on 18. A 38 on the back sort of let the air out of the 33 on the front.
But then again, the course hit a lot of people fairly hard. After surrendering 45 rounds of par or better Thursday, Augusta National gave up just 32 rounds of par or better Friday. Besides Garcia and Johnson, some notable casualties were Ernie Els (74), Zach Johnson (76), Rickie Fowler (76), Trevor Immelman (75) and Phil Mickelson, who said after his opening round 71 that he was showing the course “too much respect” by not firing at the pins on greens that were playing slower than usual.
A bit of rain Friday morning, a little afternoon wind and some bold pin placements changed things from a scoring standpoint Friday. If Round One went to the players, Round Two belonged to the course. And simply, some people, like Mickelson, just didn’t hit the ball well.
One benefit of the higher scores and bumpy play by the leaders down the stretch is that young Tianlang Guan and defending champ Bubba Watson made the cut on the number. Guan, who won’t be 15 until October and is the youngest Masters participant ever, was assessed a one-stroke penalty by the tournament committee at the 17th hole for slow play. The eighth-grader shot a 3-over 75 and is 4 over for the tournament.
LSU alum and Masters rookie John Peterson also made the cut on the number. Former LSU All-American David Toms, who played with Peterson in Wednesday’s Par Three tournament, shot a 70-74 for an even-par 142 and is six strokes off the lead.
On the other end of the age spectrum from Guan is Couples, who at 53 is trying to become the oldest Masters champ. More than a dozen players in this year’s Masters field weren’t even born when Couples played in his first Masters, in 1983. The tournament winner in 1992, Couples led after last year’s second round before finishing in a tie for 12th.
The Augusta weekend weather forecast is for temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s with no chance of rain. And as usual at Augusta on Masters weekend, the forecast for who will win the tournament is anybody’s guess.