7 Players Tied for the Lead at -3
Matt Kuchar landed in a greenside trap on 5. After four straight pars, he is once again threatening to go the wrong way. His sand shot goes to 8 feet, and he misses it. But he doesn’t lose the lead; McIlroy also bogeyed, and there is a seven-way tie for the lead at 3-under.
The leaders: Kuchar, who is one over on the day; McIlroy, with two bogeys and two birdies but no pars today; Spieth, who is three over on the day; and four guys who haven’t started: Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman and Adam Hadwin.
Jordan Spieth Steadies the Ship
Jordan Speith has a 10-footer to gain back a stroke, but it grazes the lip. Still, the par on 3 is better than he has been doing and he stays at -3.
Jordan Spieth Suddenly Two Strokes Back
Jordan Spieth’s nightmare start continues. After a second wayward tee shot, he three-putts No.2 for another bogey and falls out of the lead. McIlroy and Kuchar are now tied at the top.
Rory McIlroy Makes a Run at the Lead
And it’s all happening right now! Birdies on 2 and 3 bring Rory McIlroy up to 4-under. The birdie on No. 3 came courtesy of a big drive, a chip second shot on the par-4 hole, and a short putt. He’s tied with Matt Kuchar on top.
Matt Kuchar Gets Some Relief
Co-leader Matt Kuchar dumps the ball into the crowd behind the green on the par-3 fourth and could be in trouble. He has to pick up because the ball is behind the grandstand and drops it without penalty. He’s still far off the green, but his second shot is beautiful, leaving him with a 3-foot par saver.
Phil Mickelson Just One Stroke Back
Phil Mickelson is the only player among the contenders who is under par for the day. He’s looking at a birdie putt on No. 3 that could tie him for the lead. He misses that 10-footer, but is still in strong position a stroke back.
China’s Li Haotong Falls Out of Contention
Li Haotong, who was among the leaders yesterday, has had nothing but trouble today. The 22-year old from China double-bogeys the seventh hole to fall out of contention into the green numbers. Li’s double came in part because of a terrible bunker shot that wound up on the 17th hole, not a good place to be when playing No. 7. He’s gone from -3 to +1.
Spieth Double-Bogeys First Hole
The tournament leader, Jordan Spieth, tees off, playing with Alex Noren and Louis Oosthuizen. And it’s an unfortunate start as his tee shot goes well right. His second shot doesn’t get much farther and his third does not reach the green. The end result is a double bogey. Yikes! A nightmare start for Spieth, now tied for the lead with Matt Kuchar. Rory McIlroy also started with a bogey, but Phil Mickelson birdied the second and is just a stroke back.
Kuchar, Mickelson and Fowler Struggle on No. 1
Though Matt Kuchar was in second place and Rickie Fowler was 2-under, you get the sense that many in the big crowd for the latest group are there to see Phil Mickelson, also at -2 and playing some strong golf recently. Hole No. 1 doesn’t go smoothly for any of the three. Kuchar and Mickelson miss the fairway, and Fowler misses the green with his second shot. Kuchar and Mickelson save their pars, but Fowler misses a 10-footer and slips to 1-under. The course is playing tough across-the-board so far.
Credit Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Slow Start, but Big Names Coming Up
No one’s really making a move so far this morning. Li Haotong just dropped a stroke on No. 4, Tony Finau bogeyed the first, and none of the other players under par who have started have gained any ground. Some of the leaders are about to hit the course though: Matt Kuchar (-4) goes at 10:31, Rory McIlroy (-3) at 10:42 and Jordan Spieth (-6) at 10:53.
Fred Couples Still Playing (for Par) at 58
How about Fred Couples? At 58 years old, the 1992 Masters champion scratched out a par round on Thursday (one shot better than Tiger Woods) and is still par on Friday through three holes. And he’s playing while wearing a back brace. Couples was 18th last year and sixth as recently as 2010.
Tony Finau Starts With a Bogey
Tony Finau opens up his second round with a bogey. That’s how he started Round 1 as well, before racing to a 68 and second place. Finau drove into a bunker, but got his third shot to within 4 feet. Then he missed the gimme putt. That bogey knocks him out of second place for now.
Li Haotong Scrambles to Stay at -3
Li Haotong of China, third in last year’s British Open and just 22 years old, is one of those tied for third. It’s his first visit to Augusta. He is playing in one of the first groups of the day, and after saving par from a troubled spot on the first hole, he winds up deep in the woods again on the second. He has to hack out, but manages another par on the par-5.
Credit Brian Snyder/Reuters
What to Expect in Round 2
• The anticipation for the return of a healthy Tiger Woods to Augusta fizzled a little when he shot a pedestrian 1-over-par 73, seven strokes off the lead. Woods is not completely out of it — bookmakers are calling him a 50-1 shot now. And he did play better the second half of his round: “I could have easily let the round slip away from me, but I got it back,” Woods said. But he will have to sink some putts today to have a chance of contending on the weekend.
• Looking dangerous in a crowd of golfers tied for fourth at 3-under is McIlroy, who has four major wins but none since 2014 and none at Augusta. McIlroy is judged by bettors to be the second favorite in the tournament at this point, at 5-1, behind Spieth at 2-1. No one else is shorter than 17-1.
• Key tee times on Friday (Eastern):
9:36: Tony Finau.
10:31: Matt Kuchar.
10:42: Rory McIlroy.
10:53: Jordan Spieth.
1:27: Tiger Woods.
• On Thursday, Spieth had seven birdies and an eagle in a 6-under 66. Spieth looked liked the second coming of Woods when, in 2015, he won the Masters and U.S. Open back-to-back at age 21. He added a British Open last year, but has not won on Tour since then. He attributed his troubles to putting, but sank putts almost at will on Thursday. He’ll be tough to catch.
• At the wrong end of the scoreboard was the amateur Harry Ellis, who shot an 86, five strokes worse than anyone else in the field. A student at Florida State, Ellis won the British Amateur to earn his spot. “Today I was pretty nervous, I’m not going to lie,” he told reporters.
• It was a wild 24 hours for Finau at his first Masters. He dislocated his ankle while, of all things, celebrating a hole in one in Wednesday’s par-3 contest. He responded by reaching down and popping the ankle back into place. Finau decided to play on Thursday and went out and shot a 68, good for a tie for second place with Kuchar. “It’s nothing short of a miracle, if you ask me,” he said.