SCOTTIE Scheffler of the US hits his approach on the ninth hole during the second round of the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club.—Reuters
SCOTTIE Scheffler of the US hits his approach on the ninth hole during the second round of the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club.—Reuters

AUGUSTA: Bryson DeChambeau, Max Homa and Scottie Scheffler weathered a wild windy day seldom seen at Augusta National to share the Masters second-round lead on Friday while Tiger Woods targeted a sixth Green Jacket after claiming another major record.

First-round leader DeChambeau had looked poised to spend another night alone atop the leaderboard until a bogey at the 18th left the 2020 US Open champion with a one-over 73 and a two-day total of six-under 138.

Scheffler also had a chance to take solo possession of top spot, the world number one cruising along with a one-shot lead until running into trouble where so many have at par five 13th.

Landing his approach in Rae’s Creek, Scheffler did well to escape with bogey, then playing error free to the finish signing for an even par 72.

Homa, who had never broken 70 at Augusta until wrapping up his weather-delayed first round on Friday morning with a five-under 67, was quickly back out on the course and on the move with birdies at the second and fourth.

From there the 33-year-old American went into full damage control mode, carding 13 pars and a single bogey to happily sign for a one-under-71 as gusting winds and firming conditions limited scoring chances.

Masters debutant Nicolai Hojgaard of Denmark continued to display nerves of steel, battling to a one-over 73 to sit alone in fourth at four-under with Australian Cam Davis (72) and Collin Morikawa (70) one further back.

Only eight players managed to break par on a sun-kissed day of devilish winds that most said they had never experienced before at Augusta National.

At times golfers appeared to be playing in a sandstorm, the wind whipping up clouds of sand from the bunkers.

“It was extremely challenging,” said Scheffler. “The winds were up very high, and it blows from everywhere out here.

“I couldn’t really describe how windy it is and how difficult the gusts are just because I think you have to be out there and experience it.” As always the spotlight was on Woo­­ds as he scrapped his way to an even par 72, securing him a record 24th consecutive made cut at Augusta National.

The 15-time major winner has made a career of proving doubters wrong and did so again behind a performance of pure grit, grinding out a midway total of one-over 145 to easily clear the six-over cut line.

Woods has a long list of magical Masters moments and conjured up one more on Friday, and then immediately set a new target — a record-equalling sixth Green Jacket.

“I’m in the ball game,” said Woods. “I have a chance going into the weekend. I’m here.

“I have a chance to win the golf tournament.”

The 48-year-old arrived at the year’s first major facing a challenge that was certain to test his will and injury-battered body, the most recent ankle surgery last April. Coming into Augusta, Woods had played just 24 holes this year and had to play nearly as many on a marathon Friday that began with completing the last five holes of his weather-delayed opening round for a one-over 73, followed immediately by another 18.

Under brilliant blue skies, Woods was clearly up for the fight and he mixed four birdies with the same number of bogeys through a rollercoaster round.

Rory McIlroy’s bid to complete the career Grand Slam remains alive but just barely after the Northern Irishman laboured to a five-over 77 that did not include a single birdie.

The world number two finished with a two-day total of four-over to sneak in under the six-over cut but was not ready to wave the white flag even if a massive 10 back of the lead.

“I won from 10 back in Dubai at the start of the year,” said McIlroy. “I still think I can go out [tomorrow] and shoot a low one, get back into red numbers, and have half a chance going into Sunday.”

Jon Rahm was not quite as optimistic at a successful defence of this Masters crown after the Spaniard returned a 76 to leave him trailing by 11 strokes.

“It’s about as hard a golf course as I’ve seen in a very long time,” said Rahm. “Hopefully I can just make up some ground tomorrow.”

Some high-profile names were headed home early from the year’s first major.

Former Masters champions Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia were among the casualties, as were reigning US Open champion Wyndham Clark and 2023 British Open winner Brian Harman.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2024

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