April 9, 2016

The Masters after round two

Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy weathered the adversity and dangers that others fell victim to in the first two rounds. Being the best, they should have the mental toughness to withstand the problems that Augusta National presented to the world's best golfers. Others were not up to the task.

The weather the first round was tricky, but mostly player friendly for good scores. There were 19 scores of one under or better with 13 even par rounds. All those players were in good position to make a run at the title. Losing their chance to win with poor first round scores were: Matt Kucher (75), Bubba Watson (75), Justin Thomas (75), Martin Kaymer (75), Adam Scott (76), Patrick Reed (76), Jason Dufner (76), and the biggest disappointment Ricky Fowler (80). Was it pressure, bad breaks, or wanting it too much that produced these high scores? Probably a little of each, but in each case the green jacket was lost the first day.

Day two was a survival contest. Augusta National can play tougher, but the wind and dry conditions made scoring very difficult. The best score for Friday was a one under par 71. Only four players could better par. The second day separated another group of accomplished players from contention. Louie Oosthuizen, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Phil Mickelson, and Zach Johnson all shot 77 or more for their rounds. Mickelson's round was most puzzling, because he seemingly had it in control and playing confidently until all the wheels came off in a 10 hole stretch where he was 9 over par! The margin of error at a course like Augusta is very small and if you aren't controlling your trajectory and distance the results can be disastrous.

Now that we have eliminated the pretenders for the crown, we can focus on the battle the next two days. The winner realistically will come from someone no more than five shots from the lead starting the third round. Jordan gave a lot of people added hope with him backing up slightly on Friday. This gives Jason Day and Dustin Johnson a chance to climb back into contention with good rounds on Saturday. Bryson DeChambeau has been impressive at his first Masters. Despite his triple bogie finish on Friday, I see him staying in the mix the next two day. Presently there are 24 players within five shots of the lead with many players with little major championship experience. I would think that after today we will have about eight serious contenders within striking distance of the lead.

Conventional wisdom would say that the winner will either be Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy. Jordan is leading, but I don't think he can be very confident after his ball striking on Friday. Rory on the other hand has played good, but not great. Now he finds himself only one shot away from the lead and he hasn't played his best golf. I would think he feels pretty good about his chances. I see Jordan rebounding and regaining his form for Saturday, but I think Rory will try to intimidate and go into another gear to put a low score on the board and open up a lead. Saturday will be Jordan's mental toughness against Rory's immense talent. Going head to head in the last group will be great theater on golf's greatest stage. So far this year's Masters has lived up to expectations.


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