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5 things we learned on Friday at The 2018 Masters

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Friday is placement day in Georgia, as impending squalls loom large for the weekend. On a second consecutive, blue-sky day in Augusta, it was the conspiratorial winds of Berckmans Nursery that caused competitors to advance, retreat, advance again, and retreat once more. With dusk settling over the Augusta National course, the leader stood 9-under par, the cut fell at 5-over, and challengers could be lumped into three distinct groups: those who can win, those we are waiting to win, and those whose presence is a complete shock. We’ll have a look at all the events of day 2 of the 2018 Masters in today’s installment of 5 Things We Learned.

1) Golfers who haven’t won a Major, but won’t surprise us if they do

Marc Leishman would be any pro golfer’s pick for an impending major champion. You won’t believe how good Leish is, they say. Well, we believe you, after that rope hook into the 15th green, and the subsequent putt for eagle. Leishman lost a playoff for an Open Championship a few years back, so he knows his way around major championship pressure. The Aussie survived a scare at 18, and scrambled his way to par and 7-under at day’s end. He’ll play in the final pairing on Saturday. Patrick Reed has worn the Captain America moniker proudly when representing the USA in Ryder and Presidents Cup matches. The knock on the lad has been his inability to summon the same inspiration when contending in an individual major championship. If you missed his punch-out from the pines on 13, the wedge that followed, and the putt that dropped for birdie, 2018 might be Reed’s year to add a new bit of apparel to his wardrobe.

2) Golfers who haven’t won a Masters, and won’t surprise us when they do

Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson lead this squad. McIlroy has held the lead late on Sunday in Augusta, but the Masters remains elusive, the only major he has yet to claim. McIlroy survived professional and personal slumps, and has found his form at precisely the most appropriate moment. He seemed on the want through the Amen Corner on Friday, but found his form over the closing six holes, playing them in 2-under to reach 4-under through 36 holes. Dustin Johnson’s Sockgate of 2017 has been replaced in the public imagination by Tony Finau’s Anklegate, and the 2016 U.S. Open champion is poised to add another major title to his folder. No one was more of a favorite than Johnson at last year’s Masters, so perhaps the tournament feels like it owes him one. Remember that Johnson came back from his 2015 U.S. Open adversity to claim the title the following year. Lightning might strike twice.

3) Golfers who have won a Masters, and might add another 

Jordan Spieth was everyone’s darling after round one, then started round two with a double bogey. He’s at 4-under par, inside the top five heading into the second half of the tournament. Spieth had every opportunity to mail it in, but the wunderkind showed a gumption he’ll need to contend through Sunday. Sure, he’s finished in the top 2 three times at Augusta, but they don’t give you prizes for yesteryear. Bubba Watson was everyone’s darling before round one, but his opening 73 relegated him to afterthought status. The artistic lefty had some magic in his bag on Friday, never more in evidence than his up-and-down for par, from the left greenside bunker on 18. Spieth should be paired with DJ, while Bubba will match wits with Charley Hoffman or Adam Hadwin in round 3.

4) Golfers who have us completely confuzzled

Henrik Stenson, paging Henrik Stenson. On the day after countrymen Henrik and Daniel Sedin combined to score the winning goal in overtime in their final home game in Vancouver, Stenson stuck around. He has an Open Championship to his credit, besting Phil Mickelson in the greatest game ever played, but he has yet to play well through four rounds in Augusta. A good week to be Swedish? We’ll see. Rickie Fowler had made the longest putt of the day, 66 feet for par at the 6th, until Russel Henley bested him with 82 feet for eagle at No. 15. Fowler coulda shoulda woulda but has yet to do so. His Garcia-esque career, highlighted for so long by a Players Championship, desperately needs a major title. Fowler sits at 2-under par, inside the top 10.

5) And that leaves…the Justins

Justin Thomas, of course. The 2018 PGA champion made a back-nine move to reach the top ten, heading into the weekend. Oh, and Justin Rose, last year’s runner-up and the 2013 U.S. Open and 2016 Olympic champion. With their inclusion, six of the world’s top-9 professional golfers are in the top 10 at Augusta, heading into moving day. I don’t know that a major championship could offer more promise than that. Sure, we’d love to have those two darling oldies in the mix, but Tiger and Phil will have to wait until Shinnecock in June for a chance at major redemption.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. golf123

    Apr 7, 2018 at 9:49 am

    I’m sorry – Rickie Fowler has 4 PGA tour wins…. how is that a resume in ‘need of a major title’? The guy is dining out on the 2014 season when he finished top 10 in all 4 majors… take that away and his career looks a lot more like Bill Haas’ than someone who for some reason finds himself mentioned in the conversation of best player to not win a major…

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 8, 2018 at 12:01 pm

      He has 8 professional wins, including the next closest thing to a major (Players Championship), and 2 European Tour wins against strong fields. He is a former Walker Cup, Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup player. He contends regularly in common, WGC and major events. That’s what I use for my justification.

  2. yabba

    Apr 6, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    Tiger in the woods
    Tiger in the sand
    Tiger in the water
    Tiger in the pine cones
    Tiger everywhere !!!!!

  3. ogo

    Apr 6, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    Tiger made the cut but is 13 strokes off the lead… and… he will make a fantabulous charge on Saturday and Sunday to win it all …. NOT … 😛

  4. Bob Parson Jr.

    Apr 6, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    A cheat like Reed doesn’t deserve to win such a prestigious tournament. Reed has been accused of been a cheat for many years. Personally, I would have banned him from the tour years ago.

  5. Simms

    Apr 6, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    Phil looked like a 12 handicap out there today, did not have his head in the game at all..was moving around and never set up to swing all day…Tiger, oh well ten to one that stuff about his girl friend that came out this week is on his mind for sure…but at least Tiger played more like an 11 handicap to Phil’s 12 today….

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