Rahm splashes out delightfully to six feet. That required the old soft Spanish hands. Meanwhile a great second shot by DJ also, who finds the front of 17 from the trees. He’ll have a long two putts for his par, but at least he’s given himself the chance.
DJ sends a wild slice into the trees down the right of 17. At +3, hovering over the projected cut line, he really needs to watch himself here. As does Jon Rahm, who is +1 having dropped a stroke at 15, sends his tee shot at 16 into the sand high on the right, leaving himself a tricky splash out down the glassy green. He momentarily considers breaking his club over his knee with one big bear-like swipe, but catches himself just in time, then gives the camera a cheeky if a little sheepish thumbs-up.
Lee Westwood slides a 12-foot birdie putt inches left of the hole at 16. That was pretty much a must-make for the eternal bridesmaid, who at +5 will now have to birdie the last two holes if he’s to stay for the weekend. Meanwhile back on 15, Rory McIlroy birdies another par-five, but at +6 he’ll need three more birdies to slither under the cut line. These are pipe dreams, let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves.
Dustin Johnson continues to flirt with the cut. He spins his second shot at 15 back into the water, and is unable to scramble his par. He slips back to +3, right on the line. Meanwhile up on 18, Viktor Hovland makes par and that’s a superb 70; he’s -1. A valedictory birdie meanwhile for his partner Brooks Koepka, still recovering from that knee surgery. The four-time major winner will be heading home, finishing the second round at +5.
Abraham Ancer signs for a magnificent 69. You could forgive him for getting down on himself after being penalised two strokes for improving his lie in the sand yesterday – accidentally it should be stressed. He’s level par, and on course for another decent Masters after finishing tied for 13th back in November, when he went out in Sunday’s final group.
Matsyuama’s second into 18 stops on the ridge at the top of the green, with the pin near the bottom. He’s forced to send his putt off on one of those absurd Augusta u-turns. You’d think it impossible to leave it short as it comes off the bank, but somehow, like Frank Costanza, it stopped short. Eh? How?! Justice is done as he rolls in the par saver from eight feet, and that’s a 71 to go with yesterday’s 69. He’s nicely placed for the weekend at -4, and if he can get his flat stick to go on one of its occasional hot streaks, the Japanese star could be tough to beat.
So having said that, Viktor Hovland produces another attention-demanding shot. His approach to 17 toppled off the side of the green, but no matter, the young Norwegian simply bundled his chip back up, one of those that always looked like rolling dutifully into the cup for birdie! His run since the 12th hole: 3-4-4-3-2-3. He’s picked up five shots in the last five holes, four in the last three. He’s -1, and just imagine where he’d be had he not started his round yesterday with a triple bogey! This is a moxie masterclass by an exceptional young talent. And they say his chipping is the weak point of his game!
Schauffele creams his second into 14 to six feet, but then shoves the birdie putt well right. That’s a poor effort, and he strides off the green in Fume Mode. He remains at -2 as the second round begins to peter out, a dramatic diminuendo.
Cameron Champ mashes a monster drive down 18, miles past the bunkers, then screeches his lob wedge to 13 feet. He can’t make the birdie putt, the ball always staying up on the right, but that’s a 68 that brings him into the thick of it at -4.
That eagle has sparked Viktor Hovland into life. He sends his tee shot at 16 straight at the flag, then rolls in the gentle right-to-left slider from 15 feet for birdie. He’s back to level par.
Birdie for Rory McIlroy on 13, but it’s too little too late. His eagle effort from 20 feet was always stopping short, and his slumped shoulders illustrate where his mind is at right now. He’s +7. Birdie for his partners Xander Schauffele and Jon Rahm, too; they’re -2 and level par respectively.
Three putts for Hideki Matsuyama on 16. He knew it was likely to happen the moment he hit his tee shot. He slips back to -4, alongside Cameron Champ, who was inches away from rolling in a 20-foot birdie effort on 17, but stays in a tie for sixth.
-7: Rose (F)
-6: Zalatoris (F), Harman (F)
-5: Leishman (F), Spieth (F)
-4: Wiesberger (F), Finau (F), Thomas (F), Kim (F), Champ (17), Matsuyama (16)
Two final swipes of the 3-wood on the 18th green, and the impetuous Kim Si-woo escapes with a par! He’s not dropped a stroke since bending his putter in a fit of pique, and allows himself a wry smile as he signs for an excellent 69. He’s -4, and the 2017 Players champ is right in this. Gotta love a hot-head! Tom Weiskopf’s quiet meltdown of 1980, anyone?
Ah right, here’s what happened! On 15, Victor Hovland bumps a cute chip up from the back, the ball elegantly guided on a huge curve from left to right, dropping at perfect pace into the cup. He lets a huge, infectious smile play across his face, and no wonder; with the cut projected at +3, he’s given himself a cushion with an eagle that takes him up to +1.
A cheer rings out across Augusta as we watch Matsuyama line up his long birdie putt on 16. No idea what’s just happened, but my goodness how we missed those electric crackles in November. Even with a reduced gallery of patrons, it’s such a sweet sound! Welcome back, one and all.
Matsuyama’s tee shot into 16 is half a club short. He grimaces as he considers the long breaking putt he’s left himself. Up on 18, Kim splits the fairway, then knocks his second to 18 feet. Some more 3-wood magic coming up!
Matsuyama is a dimple away from draining another eagle effort, this time at 15. He settles for birdie and joins the gang at -5. Meanwhile up on 18, Brian Harman makes another birdie, and he’s signing for his second 69 of the week. This leader board is looking rather crowded now!
-7: Rose (F)
-6: Zalatoris (F), Harman (F)
-5: Leishman (F), Spieth (F), Matsuyama (15)
-4: Wiesberger (F), Finau (F), Thomas (F), Kim (17), Champ (16)
Kim knows how to use this 3-wood on the greens. It’s almost as though he’s broken the odd putter before. He nudges his 30-footer on 17 to tap-in distance, and tidies up without fuss. He remains at -4.
… and so there won’t be any amateurs here at the weekend. Charles Osborne, who finished runner-up to Ty Strafaci at the 2020 US Amateur, finished today at +8; the third and final amateur to tee it up this week, the aforementioned Strafaci, is currently +16 overall through 12. He won’t be making the cut. As nobody made the 36-hole cut, there will be no award of the Silver Cup. One of those years.
The 2020 British Amateur champion Joe Long shot an extremely disappointing 82 yesterday. But he’s more than redeemed himself with an excellent 72 today, and while he’ll not be here for the weekend – he’s +10 overall – he’ll surely always remember the way he took his leave of the stage at Augusta, finishing with a triple flourish of birdies at 13, 14 and 15. That’s quite the display of moxie from the 23-year-old Englishman, and may it stand him in good stead going foward.
Birdie at 12 for DJ, who is not letting his title go without a fight. He’s +2. Meanwhile Kim sends his second at 17 into the heart of the green, and it’ll be good to see him try to make that slippery putt with his fairway wood.
Birdie for the street-fighting Brian Harman on 17, and the diminutive left-hander joins the group in second at -5. Scrub that; he’s joint third, because up on 18, the debutant Will Zalatoris plays the hole in textbook fashion. Drive down the middle, approach to ten feet, putt rolled in. He’s closed with three birdies in a row, and played the back nine in 31 strokes. A sensational 68 and there is no reason whatsoever why this 24-year-old Texan can’t become the first debutant to win at Augusta since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
-7: Rose (F)
-6: Zalatoris (F)
-5: Leishman (F), Spieth (F), Harman (17)
Turns out Kim bent his putter out of all recognition while waiting to putt out on 15, after that hot chip, as opposed to back on 14. That means he’s got to use his 3-wood for the rest of the round, because you’re not allowed to use a club with altered characteristics. Shame, because he knocks his tee shot at 16 to ten feet. He could have done with his flat stick; instead, he knocks his 3-wood past the hole and must settle for par.
McIlroy drains a 15-footer to limit the damage on 10 to double-bogey. He’s +8, and the existential pain of that farce has deadened his eyes. He wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t thinking about that Sunday capitulation ten years ago. Meanwhile some very real pain on 14, where Brooks Koepka slips on the bank by Rae’s Creek and needs a little bit of help from his caddy to get back up. That’s a worry given his recent knee surgery, but thankfully it looks like he’s fine to continue. As Butch Harmon says on Sky, there is no way he’d be playing in a tournament this week if it wasn’t the Masters.
Will Zalatoris continues to impress. He creams his second at 17 to ten feet, and rolls in another birdie putt, his fourth in seven holes. He joins Marc Leishman and Jordan Spieth in a tie for second at -5. Meanwhile if Kim Si-woo thinks he’s got it bad, he should walk a mile in Rory McIlroy’s shoes; coming down 10, the hole that caused him so much pain ten years ago, he slices into azaleas down the right. Not sure he’ll find that, so he’s forced to play a provisional, which only just reaches the fringe. This is difficult to watch. It’s probably for the best that he’s going to miss the cut. Time to down tools for a while and mentally regroup. He looks frazzled.
Kim has lost the noggin. It looks like he might have done his putter a disservice while analysing events on the 14th green, because he’s now putting on 15 with his 3-wood. Two putts and he’s in for par, which could have been a whole lot worse, but black smoke is pouring out of his ears, and this time he dispatches his ball into the water. Just to confirm: he’s -4, just three off the lead at the Masters, in a tie for fifth! High standards, these professional sport stars.
Kim is a wee bit heavy handed with his chip from the back of 15. It looks for all the world like his ball is going for a swim, but the greens have softened up, and the fringe holds it up. That’s a huge break. Meanwhile back on 13, Matsuyama rattles in an eagle putt from the fringe at the back, and he’s suddenly -4 and all smiles.
DJ undoes a lot of his good work by tugging an uncertain short putt wide left at 10. Bogey, and he’s back flirting with the cut at +3. Champ meanwhile tidies up for his birdie at 14, and moves into a tie for fourth at -4.
For the second hole in a row, Kim Si-woo sends a fine approach into the green, only to see it topple gently off the back. A couple of yards out again, this time at 15. He’ll have another tricky chip back, albeit with more green to play with. On the other hand, the drink is lurking behind. Adding insult to injury, back on 14, Cameron Champ does what Kim was trying to do, landing his second a yard or so shorter, and giving himself a six-foot look for birdie.
Another birdie for Xander Schauffele. This one comes at 9, and he turns in 34 strokes. It’s always worth recalling the 27-year-old Californian’s record in the majors: to date, he’s got five top-five finishes plus two top-tens in 14 starts. One of those was a tie for second here in 2019. Throw in one WGC title and a FedEx play-off event, and it’s surely a matter of time before he lands a really big one. He’s -2 and going about his business in typically understated fashion.
A two-putt birdie for Cameron Champ on 13. He moves to -3. Meanwhile Will Zalatoris picks up his third stroke in six holes after knocking his tee shot at 16 to eight feet. He’s -4.
-7: Rose (F)
-5: Leishman (F), Spieth (F)
-4: Wiesberger (F), Finau (F), Thomas (F), Zalatoris (16), Harman (14), Kim (14)
-3: Champ (13)
The defending champion Dustin Johnson isn’t giving up without a fight. Back-to-back birdies at 8 and 9, and he turns in level par, back where he started the day at +2. A back nine like the one Justin Rose strung together, and his dream of becoming the first player to retain the title since Tiger in 2002 will be alive and well. It’s not beyond the realms, is it?
Kim’s second into 14 is inches away from perfection, but topples off the back. Shortsided, he trundles his chip well past the cup, and his par putt lips out. Some top-drawer effing and jeffing as he considers the thin line between birdie and bogey at Augusta National. He slips back to -4.
A couple of fluffed chips by the 2018 winner Patrick Reed at the back of 7. He salvages the situation, limiting the damage to bogey, with a staunch 12-footer. He slips back to -2. His partner Paul Casey bogeys the hole as well, dropping down to +2. And some news of Rory McIlroy, who follows bogey at 5 with a bunker-to-bunker farce at 7. Another shot gone, and he’s currently +6 overall after 8. Weekend participation looks a pipe dream for McIlroy right now.
Some leader board, this!
-7: Rose (F)
-5: Leishman (F), Spieth (F), Kim (13)
-4: Wiesberger (F), Finau (F), Thomas (F), Harman (14)
-3: Zalatoris (14), Reed (6)
-2: Palmer (F), Smith (F), Morikawa (F), Conners (13), Champ (11), Matsuyama (10)
-1: DeChambeau (F), Bezuidenhout (9), Schauffele (7)
Two putts for Jordan Spieth, and he’s in the hut with a brilliant 68. If he’d played the 9th yesterday to par, he’d be leading the Masters at the halfway mark. Having won the Texas Open last week, his first Tour title in four years, it’s safe to say the three-time major winner is back, back, back. Par for Cam Smith, who ends the day at -2 overall after a 68 that promised more, and birdie for Collin Morikawa, whose 69 leaves him nicely positioned at -2 as well.
Spieth whips his fairway bunker shot at 18 into the heart of the green. He’s pin high, in JT Country. A chance for birdie, but look what just happened to his pal. Back on 13, Kim Si-woo finds the green in two, but can’t quite make hie eagle putt from 13 feet. Slightly disappointing, but rising to a share of second at -5 will soften the blow.
Finau prods with great uncertainty at his short par putt, and leaves it short. That is a nervous shambles and a sorry end to an otherwise excellent round. Bogey, but it is a 66. And then Thomas’s effort horseshoes out; another miserable bogey, but he’d have taken his 67 at the start of the day. Still, that’s put another shot between the US pair and the leader Rose.
-7: Rose (F)
-5: Leishman (F), Spieth (17)
-4: Wiesberger (F), Finau (F), Thomas (F), Harman (13), Kim (12)
Thomas doesn’t give his putt enough welly, and he’ll have some work left for his par. Before he and Finau set about their work, he must wait for the third member of the group, Louis Oosthuizen, to tidy up for an excellent birdie. That means the South African will definitely be here for the weekend; he finishes the day at +2 after a weekend-salvaging 70.
Finau dinks his chip from a tight spot to the right of 18 to six feet. A chance to salvage par. Back on the tee, Spieth whips his drive into Sandy Lyle’s bunker. With Thomas taking a look at birdie soon, it’s a big few moments coming up at the top of the leader board, with all these players at -5, two behind the leader Rose.
A superb birdie by Jordan Spieth on 17. He sends his second pin high, onto the top shelf, and rolls an unerring 25-footer straight into the cup! He joins his good friend Justin Thomas at -5. Speaking of JT, he’s on the 18th in regulation. He’s not happy, having pulled his approach well left of the flag, but he’ll have a look at birdie from 30 feet nevertheless. He’s certainly in a better position than Tony Finau, who having found himself in one of the bunkers to the left, slices his second wide right of the green.
Bryson tickles in his birdie putt, and he’s signing for a 67. Out in 34, back in 33, no pictures on the card, and after yesterday’s miserable 76, he goes into the weekend in credit at -1 overall. That’s a magnificent display by DeChambeau, who is never anything less than exhilarating to watch. That drive on 18 was Seve-wild, and yet he carved out a brilliant birdie!
DeChambeau finds his ball on the 10th. No matter, because he’s got a route through the trees back to the 18th green, and he finds the dancefloor with a lovely forensic iron. He’ll have a look at birdie! Meanwhile Hideki Matsuyama birdies 9; that cancels out a dropped shot at 5, and he turns in 36 to hang in there at -3.
Thomas races an overly ambitious long birdie putt ten feet past on 17. But he holes the one coming back. That’s a super saver, and he remains in a tie for second at -5. A determined punch of the air to celebrate. His partner Finau nearly chips in from the fringe, but he’ll be more than happy to settle for a par. Back down the hole, Spieth creams his drive into position A down the right, having just made a par three on 16.
Sergio continues to move backwards. After bogey at 6, it’s another at 7, and all of a sudden he’s flirting with the cut line. He’s +3, his head just above water. Firmly below it, Rory McIlroy, who bogeys 5 and isn’t going anywhere fast. He’s +5, alongside another big name, Brooks Koepka, who has bogeyed 1, 3 and 6 today, and might be a little undercooked this week having come back so quickly from knee surgery.
DeChambeau’s great comeback may have stalled, as he tries to cut across the dogleg right on 18, and sends his tee shot deep into the pines. He’s never boring, you’ve got to give him that. Also delivering big on entertainment: Xander Schauffele, who nearly slam-dunks his tee shot at 6 into the cup. The ball screeches to a halt, a couple of inches from the cup. He’ll move to -1.