Jason Day made a miracle recovery with some urging from his wife. Adam Scott just enjoyed the majesty of Augusta National, scene of his greatest triumph. As a result, the Australian pair have a share of the lead at The Masters.
The season’s first major is set for a remarkable climax over the weekend with five joint leaders (all of them major champions) and the redoubtable Tiger Woods in the mix as well, just one back.
Day, Scott, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and American Brooks Koepka will go into the weekend as the leaders. They are a shot ahead of Woods, world No. 2 Dustin Johnson, South Africa’s Justin Harding and American Xander Schauffele at six-under in what shapes as a Masters for the ages.
Day (67 today) was not even certain of taking part today after he hobbled around with a back injury on Thursday, calling on his chiropractor for treatment and then spending the night icing and then dosing up on anti-inflammatories. But almost inexplicably, he played brilliantly today to seize a share of the lead at seven-under overall.
“Sometimes I wake up and I feel like I'm 50, sometimes I wake up and I feel like I’m 70, and sometimes I wake up and feel like I'm 18 again,” the Queenslander told the media after his round. “It just comes and goes, and that's just how it is.”
Ellie Day had told him to “suck it up” after Thursday’s round, and it worked. Day acknowledged that his American wife is “tougher than me” having given birth to their three children. “I've got to, you know, be mentally strong, and sometimes having a good, supporting wife and knowing what she has to say in certain situations to get me ready is crucial, and it obviously helped today," he said.
But he was not the only Australian making a run at the green jacket. When Adam Scott made a putt from just beyond a metre for eagle at the par-five 15th hole, he had the lead to himself at eight-under par. Scott subsequently three-putted for bogey at the short 16th but his 68 left him at seven-under and in a share of the lead – remarkably the first time the 2013 champion has had a hand on the lead in an earlier round at Augusta.
His two iron from just beyond 200 metres to the 15th emphasised the purity of his ball-striking this week. Ironically, it came immediately after a 40-minute weather delay which halted his momentum and might never have happened at all. “I almost negotiated into a layup with my caddie but it was a perfect number and I nice way to come back out with that one and knock in the eagle,’’ he said later.
In fact, Scott did not putt well on the day and could have gone significantly lower. “I struck it really well today. Ifs and buts, but I would’ve liked to have had a hot putter. Hopefully on the weekend.’’
All four of the Australians in the field made the cut, with Marc Leishman at even-par after consecutive rounds of 72, and Cameron Smith also even-par after a 74 today.
Day said his injury issues – he had injections in his back recently after withdrawing from a tournament in America – may well have helped him relax. “A major, you know, Augusta National, the Masters, everything that goes on this week, how big it is, and the distraction of wanting to win this Tournament so bad,” he said. “Sometimes it’s almost a blessing in disguise with regards to it just brings down the expectation of going out there and trying too hard.’’
As for Scott, he is so familiar with this hallowed place, a winner in 2013 and runner-up in 2011. “It’s a great position to be in. It’s a bunched leaderboard so keeping pace was the main thing today. You never know, someone might separate over the weekend so I’m in a good spot to run with them.”
Woods was at his imperious best in his second-round 68, bringing the crowds to life with long bomb birdies at the ninth and the 11th holes and making an incredible birdie from the trees left of the 14th hole. After he knocked an eight iron out of the pines and up on to the green, a security guard running to block the crowd behind him slid into Woods’ ankle and appeared to have injured him momentarily. But the four-time winner promptly rolled in his putt for a three when he appeared in danger of dropping a shot.
“It is what it is,’’ he said. “Accidents happen, and we move on.’’
-7 Day, Scott, Oosthuizen, Koepka, Molinari
-6 Woods, Schauffele, Harding, D Johnson
-5 Poulter, Rahm