Pr0fessional golf is essentially a game of minimizing misses. That’s how Nicklaus won all those majors: played approaches to the middle of greens and let the competition implode. Golf is also a game of uncertainties, like wind, for example, particularly swirling wind, lodged up in tall trees where you can’t really calculate what’s going on. I once played in 40-60 mph winds at Bandon Dunes, but you could predict the direction given the wide open links land. Those winds were like a freight train coming at you, but my friend David just held his balance, slowed down his swing, and did fine. I overswung and suffered.
On Friday, at Augusta, it was swirling wind that played with everyone except Patrick Reed and Mark Leishman. Reed tied an Ernie Els record by birdieing every par 5 at the Masters in the first two rounds. He swung all out, and seemed to muscle it through the wind, with what Nick Faldo calls “a helicopter finish”, ala Arnold Palmer in his prime . He hit his share of greens, and putted carefully and skillfully, as was required on these extremely slick, immaculate surfaces. He has some insider knowledge: His Augusta State team won two national titles when he played for them. Reed, 27, has never won a major, but he has won multiple times on tour, and showed true grit at the Ryder Cup, helping the U.S. win the last match up. He finished Friday at -9.
Mark Leishman shot 67, which was quite an amazing number, given the conditions. He will play in the final group, with Reed, on Saturday.
Jordan Spieth, who led by two at the day’s start, proceeded to start his round 6-6, which translates as double-bogey, bogey. Meltdown time. He let in almost the whole rest of the field. But he clawed his way back, as champions will do, and recovered to finish at -4, and a T-4, still very much in contention, but with a lot of work ahead to catch the two front-runners. He’ll probably need some help, like Jack used to depend upon.
Also at T-4 is Rory, who said he eventually just took a calculated guess what the wind was up to. Tee to green was solid. Putting was OK. He, too, has a lot of work ahead. My bro and I usually recalculate at this point, but I’m sticking with Rors, and I think Hank is holding pat with Jordan (the lucky dog got tickets to the Cavs-76ers game tonight!).
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, 42, unleashed his driver–as opposed to his trusty three-wood–and finished at -5, in solo third. Stenson won the British Open in 2016. I wouldn’t count out this powerful and accomplished golfer. He has that look on his face.
The cut was +5. Tiger made it at +4 but wasn’t so sharp with his irons or his green reading–this, arguably, the greatest green reader of all time. Vijay made it at +3.
Others who finished below par and still have a chance are DJ, JT, Tony-the ankle- Finau, Rickie, Charley Hoffman, Louis Oos. Justin Rose, Bubba, Kooch, Jon Rahm, Aussie Cameron Smith, and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.
Weather coming in this weekend, so things should remain interesting, to say the least.