Birdie for Rahm at 8, too, while DeChambeau was faffing around. He’s serenely moved up the standings to -6, and follows that up by crashing a beauty down the middle of 9. Bryson takes out his frustrations by sending his ball 20 yards past the Spaniard’s. Back on 2, Pan’s eagle putt was never likely to reach, but he’ll be happy enough with his birdie. He’s -7, two off the lead on his Masters debut!
Bryson gets twitchy over his eagle putt. He pulls out of it, having decided he needs to realign his ball. After an interminable period of fussin’, he eventually prods it right of the cup. You do wonder how much the lines on the ball help these guys sometimes. A birdie that feels like a bogey. He’s +1. Meanwhile on 2, CT Pan creams his second into the heart of the green, and he’ll have a 20-foot look for eagle!
Another birdie for CT Pan! He drains a 30-footer across 1 to move to -6. This is some performance from the 28-year-old Taiwanese on his Masters debut. Meanwhile one of the shots of the day from … who else? … Bryson DeChambeau. He’s coming off the back of another bogey, at 7, and skelps a big drive down the middle of the par-five 8th, then whip-cracks an iron from 234 yards to four feet! That was as clever as it was powerful, using the camber to the right side of the green to gather his ball towards the pin. A big difference to the mood music if he makes that, given he’s currenly two strokes below the cut line, currently projected at level par.
Westwood got away with a big mistake at 15. He doesn’t on 16, though. He finds sand with his tee shot, and can’t get up and down. He slips to -3. Speaking of water-bound shenanigans at 15, Schauffele gets away with one, his approach threatening to roll back into the creek, but somehow holding up, Couples-on-12-style. He nearly drains the chip, then tidies up for a par before cracking into a broad smile. He remains at -4.
Birdie for Patrick Reed at 6. He moves to -5. The 2018 champion has been going about his business in a very measured fashion this week. “Surely there’s a special term needed for how much joy certain golf fans take in the travails of Bryson DeChambeau? DeChambeaufreude, if you will.” Jared Barnes, ladies and gentlemen. He’s here all week. Try the pimento cheese.
Im Sung-jae’s round threatened to go pear-shaped for a while. But he’s recovered his poise magnificently, with closing birdies at 6 and 9 that secure a 70. After yesterday’s excellent 66, the 2019 rookie of the year sits one off the lead at the halfway point (unless anyone gets to double figures, but you get the gist).
-9: Ancer (F), Smith (F), Thomas (F), D Johnson (F)
-8: Cantlay (F), Im (8)
A par on the par-five 15th for perennial major bridesmaid Lee Westwood. Usually those feel like bogeys, the 15th being one of the easiest holes on the course, but this one will feel like a birdie. How so? Because he found the water with his approach, then sunk a 30-footer to avoid the dropped shot. He’s opened with six pars and remains at -4.
News of Justin Rose! He’s catapulted himself into serious contention with a closing birdie blitz. Birdies at 6, 8 and 9 rescues a round that was going nowhere. He signs for a 70, and he’s a couple off the lead at -7. CT Pan eagles 15 and birdies 16 to rise to -5. He’s alongside Jazz Janewattananond, who has birdied 12 and 15 this afternoon. And here’s me old pal Bryson, who having bogeyed 5 as well, swishes his tee shot at 6 to 18 inches or so, and that’s his second birdie of the round today. He’s back to +1. Just the one par so far today. Say what you will, but the guy gets himself into a hell of a lot of entertaining scrapes.
Bryson’s triple-bogey: the big debate. “I’m not sure what was so disproportionate about it,” writes Geoff Wignall. “It wasn’t simply punishment for a ‘garden variety hook’ as you suggest. He hooked two drives, both with 3 wood, then thinned an approach and made a mess of a chip. When a single bad shot often equates to bogey, a triple after four rank bad shots seems fairly mild.” Ha. Well, yes, when you write it up like that … I guess my point was, while the initial tee shot was indeed pretty bad, you don’t often see balls lost in
the second cut. The unusually boggy ground played a factor too. Compare and contrast to McIlroy flaying a much wilder hook, much deeper into trouble on 13, and finding it in the middle of this …
not particularly wild rough
All Bryson’s subsequent mistakes came as a result of an understandable case of Noggin Loss. However, having said that, here’s Steve Buist, who is standing four-square alongside Geoff: “First mistake – a bad drive and a lost ball. No patrons to help him find his ball? Boo-frickety-hoo. Then don’t hit it there. He didn’t learn from his first mistake and four others followed. Seems pretty proportionate to me.” Ah well, I suspect I’m not going to convince anyone about this. Tough crowd. Still love you both, though!
An up-and-down start to Xander Schauffele’s round. A double-bogey six at 11, having found Ray Floyd’s Pond to the left of the green. Then a birdie at 13 brings last year’s runner-up back to -4. Meanwhile a three-putt bogey for Tiger on 3; he slips back to -4.
Jon Rahm has started brightly. Two birdies in the first four, at 2 and now 4, the latter the reward for sinking a 35-foot putt, have moved him up to -5. He’s going around with Bryson, who ships another shot after finding the sand at the front of the par-three 4th. He’s +1 and now below the projected cutline. He lets his head hang low, feeling a little sorry for himself. Any weekend hacker will sympathise.
Birdie for Dustin Johnson, though, and after traipsing around in nondescript fashion since that early three-birdie burst, he joins the leaders in the clubhouse. Par for Patrick Cantlay, who ends one off that lead with a fine 66.
-9: Ancer (F), Smith (F), Thomas (F), D Johnson (F)
-8: Cantlay (F)
-7: Willett (F), Fleetwood (F), Im (16*), Casey (3)
Rory McIlroy screeches his drive at 9 down the middle, then screeches his wedge from 133 yards to a halt 11 feet from the flag. He can’t make the birdie putt, but the par gives him a 66, and he’s been as impressive this afternoon as he was appalling for the last nine holes of his first round this morning. He’s -3, and once again it looks like a cold start is going to cost him at a major, unless he does something out of this world over the weekend. Bittersweet brilliance is all good and well, but he’s got to get to the bottom of this.
Tiger’s second at 2 finds the bunker front right. His third lands softly on the lip of the hole, and nobody can work out how it didn’t drop. He taps in for birdie and moves to -5. Meanwhile birdies for McIlroy (-3) and Cantlay (-8) on the par-five 8th, but no reward for DJ, who had found a fairway bunker from the tee, then saw his wedge spin back off the green in hysterical fashion. Just a par, and a suggestion that the greens are drying out and beginning to act in a more traditional, uncooperative fashion.
Bryson flies his fourth over the green. He hangs his head. It’s all going wrong for the US Open champion. He chips back up, and nearly sends it back off down the front of the green. This is all beyond unfortunate. He leaves his putt short and that’s a triple-bogey seven. He crashes back down to level par, but that’s a disproportionate punishment for the initial mistake, a garden-variety hook. His ball may well have become plugged in an area still boggy from yesterday’s tempest. So unlucky, and it all unravelled from there.
DeChambeau, understandably running a little hot, tries the same thing off the tee … and sends his 3-wood into the same spot. This time his ball is sitting up, so at least we won’t be venturing into the realms of pure farce. But this is still a real test now for the pre-tournament favourite, who would snatch your hand off for a bogey now. Meanwhile up on 9, Koepka drains a 30-footer for birdie. He’d made one on 8 as well, and it’s a superb 69 that keeps him in the mix. He’s -5. His partner Justin Thomas meanwhile played the hole in textbook fashion, and he’s closed birdie-birdie for 69 as well. He joins Ancer and Smith in the lead.
-9: Ancer (F), Smith (F), Thomas (F)
-8: D Johnson (17*), Cantlay (17*)
-7: Willett (F), Fleetwood (F), Im (15*), Casey (2)
Frittelli has been wild off the tee on this back nine. He pulls another left, and he’s always chasing par from the trees. He ends up with a bogey that drops him back to -6. Meanwhile drama on 3, where DeChambeau hooks a 3-wood miles wide left of the fairway. His ball disappears into the second cut … and nobody can find it. How he could do with some patrons; a gallery would have been standing there and spotted that in a sweet moment. He makes the lonely journey back to the tee to hit his third.
The afternoon wave has crashed onto the scene. Tiger’s second into the 1st is awful, over the back right of the green. He’s got a really tricky chip up, but caresses it to four feet and escapes with his par. He remains at -4. That’s a street-fighting save. Meanwhile up on 2, Bryson DeChambeau leaves himself a long downhill two-putt for his birdie, after pulling his short iron into the green. A delightfully judged first putt means he’s moving to -3 in short order.
Some brilliance on the par-five 8th from Justin Thomas. He’s in the pines to the left in two. He sends a low runner out, over the bank, and past the flag … then using the camber on the other side of the green to send the ball rolling back towards the cup! It stops three feet away, and in goes the birdie putt. He’s back to -8.
Cameron Smith joins Abraham Ancer at the top of the leader board! He creams his second into 18 to 12 feet, and knocks in the fairly straight birdie putt he’s left himself. That’s a 68 to go with yesterday’s 67, and it seems a long time ago now that Dustin Johnson held a three-stroke lead at -10!
-9: Ancer (F), Smith (F)
-8: D Johnson (15*)
You’ll have noticed Tommy Fleetwood handsomely placed on the leader board there. That’s because he sent his second at 18 to ten feet, and rolled in the uphill putt for a 66. Meanwhile on 9, Ancer lashes a low iron under the pine branches, through a tunnel, and into the heart of the green! That’s a lovely bit of improvisation and it saves his par. He signs for a 67 and is the new clubhouse leader.
-9: Ancer (F)
-8: Smith (17), D Johnson (15*)
-7: Willett (F), Fleetwood (F), Thomas (16*), Cantlay (15*), Casey (1)
A three-putt bogey for Im, who is beginning to struggle a little. He slips to -6. Frittelli takes his medicine from the trees on 15, then knocks in a putt from the fringe for a very unlikely birdie. He’s back to -7. And on 9, the leader Ancer sprays his tee shot into the trees down the right. Let’s pop the leader board up while he’s still on top of it.
-9: Ancer (17*)
-8: Smith (17), D Johnson (15*)
-7: Willett (F), Fleetwood (F), Thomas (16*), Frittelli (15), Cantlay (15*), Casey
-6: Munoz (F), Im (13*)
Ancer let a chance to take sole ownership of the lead slip by on 7. He doesn’t make the same mistake at 8. Just off the front of the par-five in two, he chips from 60 yards to three feet, and tidies up for birdie. Meanwhile Cam Smith continues to mine a rich seam, making a 25-footer on 17 for birdie; that’s four shots gained in three holes! And on 18, a delighted Danny Willett caresses his approach from 150 yards to six feet and rolls in the birdie putt! What a story here! That’s a 66 after opening with a double-bogey at 10! He’s -7 and the 2016 winner is in very good nick at the halfway mark.
What a way to end a round! Sebastian Munoz sends his second at 18 over the back. He’s down the bottom of a swale. He bumps his chip up onto the green, gets the perfect amount of check, and releases his ball straight into the cup. A satisfying clack of the stick as it drops. A brilliant birdie, and he’s back in 34 for a round of 68. He’s -6.
Birdie for Cameron Smith. Fuelled by that eagle on 15, he sends his tee shot to 12 feet at 16 and he’s -7, just one off the lead. This is a fine response to a mid-round slump that saw him ship three shots in four holes between 7 and 10. Meanwhile Frittelli’s wobble continues, as he hoicks his tee shot at 15 into the pines down the right.
The amateur John Augenstein rolls in a 20-footer for birdie at 8. Having just come off the back off a triple at 7, having got into all sorts of bother with a big slice off the tee, that’s timely. It means he’s back to -3, and with just the one hole to play, in with a great shout of making the cut, which is currently projected at -1. There’s also a fair chance he’ll be the only amateur to make it, with all the others currently over par. If that’s the case, and he manages to complete all 72 holes, he’ll win the silver medal for low amateur. He’d be in decent company: recent winners have included Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau.
An aggressive three-putt bogey on 6 by Koepka. He slips back to -3, and he needs to rediscover his momentum else all the good work from earlier will unravel. Par for Thomas who stays at -7. And up on 7, Frittelli sends his first putt ten feet past, and can’t make the saver coming back. He slips to -6. He’s tried his hardest to drop a shot over the last two holes, and there it is.
Ancer misses the chance to take sole ownership of the Masters. He yips his short birdie putt on 7, and wanders off pretending that he doesn’t care too much. Hey, whatever you’ve got to tell yourself to keep going.
-8: Ancer (16*), D Johnson (13*)
-7: Thomas (14*), Frittelli (13), Cantlay (13*), Im (11*), Casey
-6: Willett (16*), Fleetwood (16), Smith (15)
Im Sung-jae stems the bleeding on 2. He bounces back from consecutive bogeys with birdie that moves him back to -7. Meanwhile Frittelli is in more pine-related bother, this time down the right of 14. He’s got a route out towards the green, though, and may be able to send one scuttling up from 120 yards. And that’s exactly what he does, firing a low one into the heart of the green. He’ll have another tricky two-putt for par, but that’s a result from where he was.
The shot of the day by Cameron Smith at 15. He draws a glorious fairway wood from 250 yards to kick-in distance. That’s going to be an eagle that takes him back into red figures for his second round, and -6 overall. That must have felt good. His smile betrays that fact pretty quickly. Also looking the picture of contentment: Abraham Ancer, who creams a 9-iron at 7 straight at the flag, the ball screeching six feet short.
An up and down from the back of 15, and Fleetwood moves to within a couple of shots at -6. Meanwhile Frittelli judges his first putt on 13 almost perfectly, happy enough to tap his second in for an adventurous par. He remains one off at -7.
Abraham Ancer joins DJ at the top of the leader board at -8! He nails a 25-foot birdie putt at 6, and it’s his fifth birdie of an increasingly superb round. Back-to-back birdies for his partner Phil Mickelson, too; Lefty moves to -5. And some fun and games involving Frittelli, who hooks his tee shot at 13 into Rory Country, hacks out from the trees, and sends his third back left of the green. It’ll be a testing two-putt, but if he makes it, he’s escaping with par.
DJ is so close to extending his lead at 3. He’s got a little eight-feet dribbler down the green. His gentle prod looks like dropping all the way, but the ball does a full 360 around the cup and stops up. That is so unlucky. Just the par. Cantlay birdies, though, having landed a gorgeous soft chip to a couple of feet, and he’s closing on on the lead. Im’s heading the other way, though, another weak chip costing him, this time at 1.
-8: D Johnson (12*)
-7: Ancer (14*), Thomas (13*), Frittelli (12), Cantlay (12*), Casey
-6: Willett (15*), Im (10*)
McIlroy sends his chip at 3 a good 20 feet past the flag. It’s not the ideal spot, coming back down a glassy green. A two-putt par far from a gimme. But he nestles it close and taps in for a par that didn’t look likely when he was watching his tee shot sail off towards woody bother. He remains at -2. A three-putt bogey for Cameron Smith at 14, meanwhile, and he slips back to -4.
A couple of decent birdie chances slip by. Justin Thomas at 3; Tommy Fleetwood at 14. They remain at -7 and -5 respectively. McIlroy, fresh off birdie at 2, slices big into the trees down the left of the risk-and-reward par-four 3rd … and gets a huge break as his ball caroms off the pines and back out to the fairway, stopping at the bottom of the bank in front of the green. Not a bad place to be at all.
Dustin can’t make his 20-foot birdie putt on 2. Like Koepka before him, he’s walking off the easiest hole on the course with only a par. He’s not taken advantage of the par-fives today: that follows his soggy bogey at 15. He remains in the lead at -8, though. Bogey for Koepka at 3 meanwhile and he’s back to -4.
It’s almost impossible for DJ to stop his sand splash anywhere near the hole. He does extremely well to stop it rolling further than 20 feet past. Meanwhile a bogey for Im on 18, the punishment for an excitable approach that toppled over the back.
-8: D Johnson (10*)
-7: Ancer (13*), Thomas (11*), Frittelli (10), Im (9*), Casey
Dustin may be in the process of buggering up the 2nd as well. After a trademark blooter of a drive down the middle, he slam-dunks his second into the bunker guarding the front right of the green. He’s shortsided himself there. Not a lot of green to play with. A job to get up and down for birdie. Meanwhile up on the testing 5th, the 2016 champ Danny Willett caresses his second to eight feet, then prods with great uncertainty at the birdie effort. Par, but a great chance to snatch nearly one-and-a-quarter strokes on the field is gone. He remains at -6.
Koepka plays the par-five 2nd in very strange fashion. He pulls his drive into the first cut down the left. He’s not got any view of the green, but hooks around the trees towards the front. Then he clunks an uncharacteristically awful chip 30 feet past the flag. Finally he nearly drains the putt coming back, but it rolls around the edge of the cup and stops tantalisingly on the lip. He taps in for par, remaining at -5, and that’s giving over half a stroke back to the field on the easiest hole on the course. Birdie for JT, who claws back one of the shots he’d just dropped. He’s just one off the lead again at -7.
A good up and down from the side of 17 by the co-leader Im. DJ fails to hit a birdie opportunity at 1. Dylan Frittelli follows up birdie at 8 by rolling in a 20-footer across 10 for another. He’s back where he started the round. Justin Rose misses a short birdie putt on 18 and turns in 37, -4 for the tournament. And Phil Mickelson is going backwards, sandwiching birdie at 2 with birdies at 1 and 3. He’s -3. Here’s where we are.
-8: D Johnson (10*), Im (8*)
-7: Ancer (12*), Frittelli (10), Casey~
-6: Willett (13*), Augenstein -a- (13*), Thomas (10*)
Thank you sir. Back just in time to see Brooks Koepka, who smoothly sent his second from the second cut down the left of 1 to eight feet, tidy up for birdie. That moves him to -5, just three off the lead, a state of affairs that seemed barely possible when he was standing on the 15th tee at +2. JT can’t get up and down from the back, though, and you can trace that double-bogey back to his wild drive. He slips out of the lead to -6.
Anyway, no more rhetorical questions from me. I’m going to hand you back to the master himself. Ladies and gents, it’s Scott Murray…
Quick Rory update. He completes his first nine, the back, in 4-under to climb from 3-over to 1-over. That’s currently worth tied 40th and seven off the pace. Problem is, he’s now about to embark on the half of the course where he’s struggled. Would he take 1-under on this nine and then gear himself for a weekend challenge? Or will he be chasing something around 3-under on 1-9, knowing that he needs to cash in now while he’s on a roll?
Danny Willett is on fire. The 2016 Masters champion won the Green Jacket four years ago with a 72-hole score of 5-under. Today, he’s played his last nine holes in a slightly ridiculous 7-under thanks to an eagle and five birdies, the latest two par breakers coming at 2 and 3. From nowhere, he’s just one off the lead. Amazing stuff.
Justin Thomas may or may not have been called ‘Tommy’ in his youth. But he’s gone all pinball wizard at No.1. Playing from the pines, he pulls back the spring, releases and his ball ricochets off a tree 30 yards away, flying to the right. JT has another go and sends his third to the par-4 opener off the back of the green. Bogey at best now.
The live mic now on Patrick Cantlay as he prepares to hit his second to 18. He’s having a lengthy chat with his caddie. First thought: you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift with him. Second thought: overthinking often backfires. He finally pulls the trigger and dumps his approach into the right bunker.
It’s a three-way tie at the top! After Dustin Johnson lost some focus and made consecutive birdies when hitting double digits under par, he’s been joined at -8 by compatriot Justin Thomas and Korean Sungjae Im. Thomas’ birdie streak is now four after another at 18 (although a loose drive into the trees down the left at No.1 suggests he won’t extend it to five). Im has just gone birdie-bogey-birdie-birdie at 12-15. March’s Honda Classic winner hasn’t got the hang of majors up to this point (four MCs and no top 20s in six starts) but he’s having a Masters debut to remember so far.
Fantastic stuff from Rory. This has a Royal Portrush vibe; terrible first round before a dramatic revival. Hopefully the outcome is different this time though as McIlroy missed the cut in that 2019 Open Championship. Here, he’s the right side of the cut line for the first time in (checks watch but no answer) a while thanks to a 20-footer for birdie at 17. McIlroy was all over the place near the end of round one but he’s playing this same stretch (the back nine) superbly. A birdie at 18 and he’ll be out in just 31 blows. What a man. Having no time to think between rounds has clearly helped. No questions from the pesky press to further stir those inner demons.
Talking of eating hats, that brings to mind Stan Laurel being forced to eat his bowler hat after losing a bet with Oliver Hardy in ‘Way Out West’. Ollie is a well-known figure in these parts. Why? He was born in nearby Harlem and there’s a Laurel and Hardy museum just a 30-minute drive along the I-20 from Augusta National.
Some numbers to help us find the winner from here…
70, 69, 71, 70, 64, 69, 69, 69, 69, 67
The first batch are scores shot by the last 10 winners in round one. The second is their position after 18 holes. It seems that the best first-round number to shoot is 69. Those who like a bit of mode rather than mean or median include Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson and Tony Finau. They all fired 3-under. The other take is that you need to be in the top dozen after 18 holes. With scoring low this year, that means 68 or lower. Those who managed that: 65 Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson, Dylan Frittelli, 66 Justin Thomas, Sungjae Im, 67 Cameron Smith, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele, 68 Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood, Hideki Matsuyama, Cameron Champ, Abraham Ancer and, erm, Bernhard Langer. If the winner isn’t in that lot, I’ll eat my hat.
Frustration for both Rory and DJ at the par-3 16th. Rory’s birdie try dribbles right and Johnson’s won’t quite dribble enough after starting left. The third member of the gang, Patrick Cantlay, has an easier putt and the quiet man of American golf is now making some noise. Birdies at 13, 15 and 16 have taken him to -5 and just three back. Justin Thomas has an even better streak going after a sexy three-in-row run at 15, 16 and 17 takes him just one back.
The English challenge is gathering pace. Paul Casey (-7) and Lee Westwood (68) had excellent opening rounds but they’ve now been joined in the top 12 by 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett and Tommy Fleetwood. The latter duo have both played their first nines (Willett the back and Fleetwood the front) in 3-under to reach 4-under, good enough for T11. Willett deserves a big pat on the back after starting round two with a double bogey.
Rory getting his schizzle together. Birdies at 10, 12 and now 15 following a lovely pitch down the green and calm putt have hauled him back to even par and tied 52nd. Only the top 50 and ties make the weekend so McIlroy can’t take his foot off the gas yet. He’s now eight behind leader Dustin Johnson, who takes a messy bogey at classic birdie hole, 15. That’s back-to-back scorecard squares for DJ. Where’s this come from? Showing notable panic (not really), he then floats his tee-shot right over the flag at 16. An obvious chance for a bounceback birdie.
Here’s a fun fact. Well, there are probably better ways to lighten your day, but let’s reveal it anyway. While it’s easy to get caught up in the thrills of birdies and eagles, the Masters winner is often the one who makes the fewest mistakes. The evidence: seven of the last 12 Masters winners ranked No.1 in Bogey Avoidance for the week. There’s also a magic number associated with all this. In total, 11 of the last 12 Masters winners didn’t rack up a bogey or worse count of more than +10 for the week. In other words, you could have maybe eight bogeys and a double bogey over the 72 holes and just about get away with it. Even three doubles and four bogeys would scrape in. But when that count goes to +11, a klaxon sounds. A klaxon that says You’re Not Winning. Which is a long-winded way of saying Rory has had it. His bogey or worse count of +5 in round one means he’s used up 50% of his allocation. Tiger’s count is zero after his first bogey-free round in a major since 2009. I’m sure John King would have said it more eloquently than this.
Thanks Scott and hello viewers. And as I join you there’s fresh drama as Dustin Johnson finds water at 15 while, at the hole ahead, Justin Thomas rolls in his birdie to get to -6. A gap was opening up between the two American big guns but that could be down to just two if DJ can’t get up and down. And that may well be the case with Johnson facing maybe 10 feet for his par 5.