At the halfway stage of the 76th Masters it is one of the most open Tournaments for years, with the field very bunched still.
At the top of the tree on 5-under-par are two Americans, Jason Dufner – who lost a playoff at the PGA Championship last year, and Freddie Couples, who was the Champion here in 1992. Couples’ 67 was the low round of the day. But there are a host of big names who will feel they are still in with an excellent chance.
One shot off the lead on 4-under are Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy.
“I feel I’ve got a better short game than I had 12 months ago,” said a jovial McIlroy afterwards, “and that means I can be more aggressive approaching these greens. Tomorrow I’m going to try and go out there and post a good number, but there will be a lot of guys out there who think they have a chance. I wouldn’t say I’m in a position to win yet, but hopefully by tomorrow evening I will be.”
McIlroy is now definitely the favourite to win on Sunday night, not least because he has shown extraordinary consistency over the past nine months, being in contention in every tournament he has played since the PGA Championship last August. His chances have also been improved by the poor form of Tiger Woods, who struggled with his driver yesterday, and with most areas of his game today.
If the Patrons here have a favourite though, it is Freddie Couples, and they will be willing the 52-year-old to a famous victory. “I’ve been saying for 28 years this is my favourite golf tournament in the world,” said the American, who has been described as so laid back he is almost horizontal. “I am shocked. For me to be part of it at this stage is really amazing. I’m very thrilled. I love this place. I don’t feel a lot of stress here. It’s my favourite place; and you can’t say that, and then break a club on the 4th hole on Saturday, can you?”
Meanwhile, Dufner is hoping he can go one better than he did at the last major. “I think the weather is going to be a good bit better for the weekend, calmer conditions, nicer weather,” he said. “I feel real good out here and will be going in with the same game plan.”
Hideki Matsuyama (+1), Kelly Kraft (+5) and Patrick Cantlay (+5) were the three amateurs to make the cut.
Among the big names who won’t be around for the weekend were Alvaro Quiros, Lucas Glover, Darren Clarke, K.J. Choi, Kyle Stanley, Jason Day and Paul Casey. The 2008 Champion, Trevor Immelman, birdied three of the last six holes to make the cut on the mark.
-5: Jason Dufner, Fred Couples
-4: Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson
-3: Paul Lawrie, Matt Kuchar, Miguel Angel Jimenez
-2: Ben Crane, Charles Howell III, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Peter Hanson, Aaron Baddeley, Henrik Stenson, Nick Watney
-1: Sean O’Hair, Johnathan Byrd, Jim Furyk, Yuong-Eun Yang, Gary Woodland
Level: Zach Johnson, Ian Poulter, Fredrik Jacobson, Hunter Mahan, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari