If there was any doubt over Scottie Scheffler being the best player in the world, he went a long way to justifying his world number one ranking with a simply stunning second-round 67 at Augusta National and he leads the Masters by five shots at the halfway stage.
In hot pursuit on three-under are defending champion Hideki Matsuyama, 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel, first-round leader Sungjae Im and Ireland’s Shane Lowry whose four-under 68 was the low round of the day for a while before Scheffler and Justin Thomas beat him by one.
Scheffler, who has three wins already this season, opened with two bogeys and a birdie in his first three holes to drop back to two-under and it wasn’t until the wind dropped late in the afternoon that the world number one began to accelerate away from the field.
Scheffler played his last eleven holes in six-under and his birdies came in pairs at 7, 8, 12, 13, 15 and 16 as he threatened to run away with the Green Jacket.
Lowry’s joint-lowest round at The Masters has him in a share of second place after he recovered from an opening bogey to card five birdies. A 38-yard pitch in birdie on the 10th ignited the Clara man’s chances and he followed that up with gains at 13 and 15 to move to within one of the lead before Scheffler left the field in his wake.
“To be completely honest, the front nine was such a grind,” said Scheffler.
“The wind was crazy. There was some times where we saw the sand blowing up out of the bunkers out there. It was ridiculous. I think we were a little bit fortunate that it did die down a little bit towards the end of the day. It was still gusty, but you were able to find some spots where, for instance, on 16 I almost didn’t even play any wind. We were definitely fortunate in that sense, but we were also playing in some pretty aggressive winds at the beginning of the round.”
Rory McIlroy battled valiantly for a second straight round of one-over 73, but unfortunately he has a mammoth task to get into contention for his maiden Masters title from two-over.
When McIlroy secured another miraculous par on the 18th he was only five shots off the lead and still in with a shout of completing the career grand slam, but by the time Scheffler tapped in on 18 for his par the gap had stretched to ten shots and it looks like Rory will have to wait another year at least.
It was a round that had a bit of everything. Having passed up a great opportunity for an opening birdie he opened his account on the par-5 2nd after finding position Z off the tee. A three-putt bogey from just off the front of the 5thdropped him back to one-over and from there it was a battle to save pars until the turn.
McIlroy has had issues with his approach play all year and those problems reared their ugly head and cost him three shots in two holes and probably the tournament. It was the double-bogey on the 11th that left fans fearing if he would even make the weekend after falling to four-over.
In trademark fashion, the Holywood native bucked up his ideas and began to play well when all seemed lost, birdies at 13 and 16 brought him back to two-over and he comfortably made the cut in the end, but at ten shots back his chances are bleak at best.
Pádraig Harrington missed the cut by the minimum on five-over but Seamus Power can proudly boast a 100% cuts made record in major championships after a gallant finish secured his passage into the weekend at Augusta National.
The Waterford native was six-over after 12 holes but roared on by a partisan Déise following, the 34-year-old rallied with birdies at 13 and 16 to make the cut on the number at plus four.
The Tooraneena army will have their weekend at Augusta and Power can be proud of his pair of 74s after finally breaking his birdie duck on the 28th hole (10th hole of rd.2).
Had Scottie Scheffler not established a potentially unassailable lead at the top of the leaderboard, one might pick out the name of Tiger Woods as a potential challenger over the weekend. One year ago Bryson DeChambeau was attempting to drive the par-5 6th at Bay Hill while Woods contemplated leg amputation. 13 months on and it was Bryson grimacing on the 16th tee as Woods skipped along the Augusta fairways on the back nine after recovering from a nightmarish start.
One would think after shooting 74 after four bogeys in the first five holes Woods would be satisfied with his one-over 36-hole total but the truth is it could have been so much better.
The five-time Masters winner playing for the first time since the 2020 edition passed up great birdie opportunities on 15 and 16 in such un-Tiger-like fashion.
The fifteen-time major champion looked much healthier than Thursday morning and his swing on the back nine looked to be as free-flowing as it could be and he sits in a share of 19th just four shots shy of second place.
Scottie might be producing Tigeresque golf this season and this week but the story of the 86th Masters is undoubtedly Tiger Woods being well, playing golf and making the cut and by his own admission, “has a chance.”