Australian Jason Day reacts after finishing with a par at No. 18 on Friday… (Andrew Redington / Getty…)
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The course wouldn’t be eaten alive again Friday, not by anyone, from the clammy outset and soggy middle to the wind-whipped end.
Augusta National again had most everyone under control, and that included the one guy whose force-of-nature runs can turn the place inside out.
So there stood Tiger Woods, brilliantly extricated from pine straw along the 15th fairway, staring directly at the pin and full command of the weekend. He’d assaulted the place on the front nine and churned through wind gusts after the turn. Now he flew a clean shot, maybe 70 yards from the cup, into the sun.
It scored a direct hit on the pin. And the unforgiving carom rocketed his ball into the water. The grandstands gasping, Woods put his hands on his hips and stared ahead. There were red numbers in the first round, and black-and-blue scorecards in the second.
“I felt like I really swung the club well and didn’t get a whole lot out of this round,” said Woods, who saved bogey at No. 15 but three-putted for another bogey at No. 18 and a 71 that left him three off the Masters lead at three-under 141. “It’s tough out there.”
Jason Day cut through it all, posting six birdies in a round of 68 that put him at six under and produced a one-shot lead over 53-year-old Fred Couples and first-round co-leader Marc Leishman.
A total of 24 players bettered par Friday, down from the 33-man onslaught of Thursday. Five competitors broke 70, compared with 12 in the first round. Rain overnight and in the morning may have softened the course, but the befuddling wind more than compensated.
“It was in a different direction, and it was stronger than it was [Thursday] as well,” said Leishman, who managed a 73 to remain in contention. “It was good to get out of there relatively unscathed.”
Day, meanwhile, did everyone favors. The 25-year-old Australian, who tied for second in the 2011 Masters, shot the day’s low round. But by narrowly missing birdie putts on Nos. 17 and 18, Day allowed 14-year-old Tianlang Guan and defending champion Bubba Watson, among others, to make the cut.
“It feels like every shot is the biggest shot you’ve ever hit in your life out there,” Day said.
“There’s so many people watching you around the world because it is, by far, probably one of the biggest tournaments to watch on TV. So there’s obviously a lot of pressure there. I was just trying to breathe as much as I could to keep myself as level as I could.”
Sergio Garcia, who slogged to a 76 after a first-round 66, couldn’t. Neither could Dustin Johnson, who grabbed a two-shot lead at Amen Corner and then dropped six shots over the last five holes. Frustrations extended to Guan’s controversial one-shot penalty for slow play — mitigated by the fact it didn’t cost the teenager a weekend spot.
But workmanlike efforts rewarded those who could manage them.
Couples made the trip for a rare Sunday practice round because he was playing “horrible” golf, as he put it. He got tips from his swing coach, then kept hitting it long through rain and sun Friday, finishing with the same five-under score through two rounds that had him atop the leaderboard a year ago.
“I’m going to quit when I win this thing [again], I swear to God,” the 1992 champion said. “It’s probably not ever going to happen, but I’m going to retire. I’ll play golf, but not this hard. I mean, the golf course is brutal.”