AUGUSTA, Ga. — There are leaderboards and there are It’s a new record for most players to hold a 36-hole lead at Augusta National, and oh yeah, there are three other majors champions — including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson — within three of the lead.! This year’s 36-hole Masters scoreboard is the latter as five major champions share the 7 under mark at the halfway point.
That makes for 28 total major championships represented by the top 16 golfers on the leaderboard and 28 total golfers at or within five strokes of the lead, which means we are probably in for one of the wildest weekends in recent major championship history.
The five-way lead atop the board between Jason Day, Francesco Molinari, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen is by itself enough to get the adrenaline pumping for the closing 36 holes at Augusta National. With Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm joining Woods and Mickelson as chasers, there is no potential scenario I wouldn’t believe over the final two rounds.
So while it feels like an entire tournament took place on Friday at Augusta National, we’re really just getting started. Formulas for great majors are not complex: Tight boards with great personalities and talent splayed against great backdrops. Check, check and check. Time to cancel those weekend plans.
Here are nine other thoughts on Round 2 at Augusta.
1. Jason Day’s back: I don’t know if he’s back (or if he ever went anywhere), but I would like to talk about his back, which is both hurt and the subject of some pretty, uh, interesting anecdotes that both made me cringe and made me laugh. A win this weekend would be incredible for him, though I worry the weight of a green jacket on Sunday might break him for good.
2. Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele lurk: Whenever I’m watching J.T. at Augusta, I always get the feeling that he’s about to go on a 6-under-in-five-hole run. On Friday, he chipped in for eagle on No. 15 to touch 4 under before bogeying the last for the second straight day. Then Schauffele did what I always think Thomas is going to do. His 65 was the round of the week so far, and he came back from 1 over on Thursday with four birdies in the last six holes to get within one of the Friday evening lead. Big game hunter.
3. Zach Johnson’s big whiff: If you haven’t seen it yet, Z.J. hit a ball on accident off the tee on the 13th hole during a practice swing. This is not a drill. His quote after the round had me absolutely howling in delight over what had happened. Related: If you had said, “Which of the 87 golfers in this field accidentally hit a ball on his practice swing?” then he would have been my first guess. My second guess would have been, “Are you sure it wasn’t him?”
“That was a good one there,” said Johnson. “That’s a first. I thought I had done it all but now I know I’ve done it all. Shoot, they got that? Even when I tried to slice it, I still hook it. That’s kind of the joke of the group. I mean, toe push into the tee marker and then, you know, it was a nice little four foot draw it turned out. So, yeah.”
4. Biggest cut ever: To add to the bunched-up board, a record 65 golfers made the cut because of the 10-shot rule. Because nobody could stay at 8 under (only Adam Scott got there) everyone at 3 over or better gets to play the weekend, which means we have the biggest weekend field since the Masters started its cut in 1957. I want to bathe in the madness.
5. No quit in Jordan Spieth: After I watched him for four holes on Thursday, I mentally shut the door on Spieth. And while he’s not going to win the 2019 Masters, the 4-under 68 he fired in Round 2 was one of the best of the day and took a herculean effort from the former champ. I know it sounds silly to be impressed by a 143 opening two rounds, but after the way it was coming off his clubface on Friday — and maybe more so how he putted — I’m blown away by his rebound. It’s easy to roll when you’re rolling, if that makes sense, but to fight when it’s going the wrong way is what makes elite careers. Spieth has all of the skills, but that’s probably the most important one.
6. Frank the Tank: Tiger Woods opened the week talking about Frank the Tiger (emblazoned on his polo), but maybe it’s time we talk about Frank the Italian as in Francesco Molinari, reigning Open champion. Molinari has one (!) bogey over the first two days and is playing this place as cleanly as you can possibly play it so far. He would join a knee-buckling list of Carnoustie-Augusta winners with a victory this weekend that includes Ben Hogan, Tom Watson and Gary Player.
7. Phil and Tiger strokes: Coming into this year’s Masters, Mickelson and Woods had played in 21 of the same Masters. In those 21 Masters, they had both taken exactly 5,816 strokes. Now Woods is up 5,954 to 5,956 (you better believe I’m keeping track of this for the rest of their careers).
8. Ams on the weekend: I had odds that only one amateur — Viktor Hovland from Oklahoma State — would play the weekend this year, but instead we’re getting four as Alvaro Ortiz, Takumi Kanaya and Devon Bling also made the cut. The week of their lives — for most of them, the only Masters they’ll ever play — gets 36 holes tacked onto the end of it, which is incredible and made even more amazing when you realized that pros like Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose (the No. 1 player in the world!) all missed the cut.
9. Phil’s previous positions: In the three Masters he’s won previously, Phil Mickelson was T4 (3 back), T5 (4 back) and T3 (2 back) at the 36-hole mark. This year he’s T12 (3 back). Friday’s round was also historic for a different reason as it was his 100th at Augusta National. One-hundred trips around the national in competition and another two this weekend with a fourth coat at stake.