Augusta, Ga.- Tiger Woods could be the biggest story in the 86th Masters.
But everyone is chasing the hottest player in the world, the world number 1 Scottie Schefflergoing into the third round on Saturday at the Augusta National Golf Club with a 5-shot lead.
Scheffler’s lead equals the largest 36-hole lead in Masters history. Five other players led after two rounds by as many shots, including Harry Cooper in 1936, Herman Keizer in 1946, Jack Nicklaus in 1975, Raymond Floyd in 1976, and Jordan Spieth in 2015. All but Cooper ended up winning one green jacket.
Here’s what to watch out for on Saturday at Augusta National:
Can anyone catch Scheffler?
Scheffler, 25, has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past two months. After failing to win in his first two seasons on the tour, Scheffler has won three times in his last five starts — at the WM Phoenix Open in February and the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Dell Technologies Matchplay in March.
Since the official world golf rankings began in 1986, no player has won their first PGA Tour or DP World Tour event, risen to world No. 1 and claimed their first major championship win in the same year. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 25 different players have reached world No. 1, and Scheffler has a chance to become the first player to accomplish all three of those feats in the same year.
But Scheffler has never been in the lead in a major championship. His previous best was a tie for second place after 54 holes at the 2020 PGA Championship; He finished fourth with a tie. He is the third world No. 1 to hold or share the 36-hole lead at the Masters. Of the previous two, one won (DustinJohnson in 2020) and one of them is known to have been lost (Greg Norman in 1996).
Can Scheffler keep the lead?
“If any, [having the lead] gives me more self-confidence,” said Scheffler. “Once I saw that at some point I took the lead [Friday], and my first thought was to just keep trying to build it just because I feel like I’m playing well. That’s going to be the goal we’re going into [the third round], just to keep putting myself in good positions to execute shots. As long as I’m committed to everything, everything should be fine. The rest is really not up to me.”
Tiger Woods talks about his second round and is happy he has a chance to go into the weekend.
In his first start at an official event in more than 17 months, Woods, who has won five times here, is 9 strokes behind Scheffler. But he’s only 4 strokes away from second place.
Woods, 46, had to work extra hard to stay in the mix after vaulting four of his first five holes on Friday. He rebounded with four birdies in his last 11 holes and missed a few other good chances.
All in all, it was a brave performance for Woods, who was critically injured in a car accident outside of Los Angeles on February 23, 2021.
“I felt good for fighting back [Friday]’ said Woods. “I could have easily thrown myself out of the tournament today but I held my ground. Tomorrow will be an important day, with as cool and as hard as they predict. It’s going to be quick and I need to get out there and stand there. If you’re within five or six on the back nine by Sunday, you’ve got a shot, so I just have to get there.
Woods said he was pleased that his surgically repaired right leg survived the first 36 holes.
“It worked out great,” he said. “I was hoping that I didn’t have any setbacks along the way where I couldn’t go, but I didn’t have any setbacks. Everything was good, it was hard. My team did a damn good job of getting me ready. After I go ahead and break [my body] Out there they go ahead and fix it at night.”
Justin Thomas isn’t mad now
JustinThomas was with Woods when he traveled to Augusta National a week ago to test his right leg while playing 18 holes with his son Charlie. He played two rounds of nine holes with Woods earlier this week.
On Thursday, it didn’t look like Thomas had picked up much course knowledge from the 15-time major champion. But after a 76 in the opening round, Thomas got hot and bounced back with a 5-under 67 in the second round. He ranks 10th in 1-under through 36 holes.
Thomas had the lowest score of round two and kept alive his streak of 18 consecutive cuts, the longest of any player on the tour. His 9-shot improvement was also the best among players on the field.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Thomas said of Thursday’s opening round. “That was by far the sourest thing I’ve had after a lap in a really, really long time. I do not know. It was just one of those weird days [Thursday] where I just couldn’t concentrate. I didn’t get around. I just couldn’t get into the moment, which is sad and a shame for the first round of the Masters.”
Thomas said he released air by playing fetch with his dog.
“I played fetch with my dog for about 45 minutes and [his fiancee] Jill was out there with me,” Thomas said. “I just sulked and pissed and moaned and had some dinner for about 30 minutes and went to bed. It’s all ok.”
The place brings out the best in them
of South Africa Charl Schwarzel, the 2011 champion, is tied for second place at 3-under. He is ranked No. 172 in the world and has missed the cut seven times in nine tours this season.
“The bad results didn’t really determine how I felt here,” said Schwartzel. “I actually took two weeks off. As the two weeks went by, my confidence grew in believing that I could win this tournament because I was starting to do very well. [I] I was just looking at old footage and it’s still there.”
Schwartzel said he watched highlights of himself winning the Masters and began to think he could do it again. When asked what impressed him most about winning at Augusta National 11 years ago, he had a simple answer.
“Put on the green jacket at the end,” Schwarzel said.
defending champion Hideki Matsuyamawho is struggling with back and neck injuries is also in second place with 3 under. DustinJohnsonthe champion of 2019, ranked sixth with 2 below. Danny Willettwho won a green jacket in 2016 is ranked 1st in 10th place.
Willett had missed the cut at the Masters in four of his last five starts. He has not had a top 20 finish on the tour since he finished 18th at the RBC Classic in March 2021.
“We’re in a good position,” Willett said. “I [haven’t] I’ve been in this position for a while and it’s nice to be there.”
Can Harold Varner III break the rookie drought?
Harold Varner III was among the last six players to make the Masters field by ranking in the top 50 in the world on March 28. He makes the best of his chance.
Varner ranks sixth with 2 under after posting 1 under 71 in each of the first two rounds.
Varner won the Saudi International in early February by sinking a 92-foot Eagle putt on hole 72. In mid-March, he placed sixth on The Players.
“I think winning only leads to winning,” he said. “I never doubted that I could win, but it just never happened. I’ve been there, scored some big numbers when it was very important and I think maturity. But the greatest thing is just walking my journey.”
Varner said some of the best advice he received came from Woods.
“I’ll never forget, Tiger told me the greatest thing,” Varner said. “I asked him, ‘What does it take to win?’ He said, ‘Stop worrying about winning, you’re going to keep it.’ It’s helped me to just do what I’m good at, play golf, hit the shot that it takes, I think you have to do that a lot out here.
Varner is enjoying his first Masters appearance with his parents and young son Liam.
“It’s incredible,” Varner said. “I just saw my father for the first time. He doesn’t like to watch. He’s getting too nervous, but I saw my mother. I can’t wait to see my child. Like I said, he’s probably going to throw up on me. yes it is great “