Stenson and McIlroy in contention as Reed rocks Augusta
Augusta, Georgia, April 6: Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy will be among the numerous superstars chasing down the lead of Ryder Cup star and European Tour Member Patrick Reed after the American carded nine birdies in a stunning six under 66 to lead by two heading into the weekend at the Masters Tournament.
The 27 year old hero of the USA’s 2016 Ryder Cup victory at Hazeltine was on fire on day two at a sun-kissed Augusta National, opening with three successive birdies and carrying that momentum the whole way through to finish the day on a nine under par total.
He was three shots clear stepping into the 16th tee but a bogey on the famous par three opened the door for the chasing pack, which was led by second-placed Marc Leishman of Australia, who signed for a five under 67 to move to a seven under for the week thus far.
India’s Shubhankar Sharma carded a two-over par 74 to miss the cut by two strokes.
“I think the biggest highlight was getting off to the start I did. Hitting three‑wood off the first, it’s a hole I’ve always loved to hit driver but I’ve always gotten myself in trouble for it,” said Reed.
“My wife always tells me it’s a three‑wood, hit three‑wood. Finally I’ve listened to her. I’ve hit three‑wood both days, just played down the middle of the fairway, and that front left flag, it’s such a hard flag to get close to. I was able to kind of hit wedge just to the right of it and probably about 15, 18 feet.
“I think that was kind of the crucial point, to make a putt like that where it’s double‑breaking and so speed sensitive, so I just kind of got my round started and just got that confidence and that step that I needed going into the day. Especially being last tee time off and seeing how the guys are struggling out there and not really a lot of low scores early, guys seemed to be making bogeys, one‑over, even, one‑under here and there.
“To be able to get a birdie out early, especially on the first and knowing you’re going into a par five and that if you hit it into the fairway, you’re going to have a chance to go for it in two, just allowed the day to start out on the right foot.
“Everyone wants to win, and if you don’t believe you can win them, then you probably shouldn’t be playing. I believe that if I play the golf that I know how to play, that I can win majors. And it’s just one of those things – I have to go in and not get ahead of myself and go into tomorrow and just take it shot by shot, hole‑by‑hole, like I’ve been doing.”
Marc Leishman started well with three birdies: “On a day like today, when it’s going to be tough, you sort of know you’re going to have to take your chances when you get them, it just happened that I had them on the first three holes. That was great.
“And where I hit my drive on 15 was not ideal. But I practice that shot every week, curving it big both right‑to‑left and left‑to‑right, and it was one of those opportunities where it fit the shot and I thought it was a good time to give it a go. I did it, and it came off.
“I will say, I wasn’t aiming quite as far left as where the ball went, but when you get a break like that and hit a good shot, you want to take advantage of it, and I did that by making the putt. It was nice to walk away from that hole with a three and be even on it for the week.”
Swedish former Open Champion Stenson was two shots further back after adding a two under 70 to his first round 69, while Grand Slam-chasing McIlroy was joined in a share of fourth place by fellow multiple Major Champion Jordan Spieth.
“It was fairly similar to yesterday, I think. I managed my way around this course in a good way, didn’t make too many mistakes, even though I was a little frustrated with the way I hit the ball at times. I didn’t feel like I brought the long game that I would like to have had out there,” said Stenson.
“I still kept it together and made some good par saves and some good putts. So all in all it’s a good score. It’s playing pretty vicious out there sometimes when that wind is swirling and I think for me the toughest stretch there was ten and 12.
“The wind was all over the place and you think it’s into on 12 and I played a little eight‑iron and this thing is just like pumping downwind as soon as the ball’s in the air – it landed up in the bushes behind and came back into the bunker. So when you got those things playing alongside, it’s pretty hard at times. But I’m still happy with the way I finished and kept it together.”
Grand Slam-chasing McIlroy played well on the back nine: “My game feels okay. I played really well on the back nine, especially I made three really good pars on ten, 11 and 12 and then I had chances all the way in. I’m a little frustrated that I’m not in the clubhouse at say, six or seven under, I missed two really good chances coming in. It was a tricky day. Anything under par was pretty good but I feel like I left a couple out there.
“The wind is maybe five miles an hour more than it was yesterday but it’s just enough to make it very tricky. I thought the pin positions today were a little tougher than they were yesterday so it was tough to get it close to some of the holes, especially on the tougher holes. You’ve got to stay patient around here.
“If you can not give any shots away with your short-range putting from inside six-feet – and there are some six-footers out here that you have to give it two feet of break – so they are pretty difficult. If you hole some 15 or 20-footers that’s a bonus.”
With heavy rain set to fall on the idyllic Georgia venue on Saturday, it is set to be an eventful moving day and a thrilling weekend in the year’s first Major Championship.
Englishman Justin Rose was pleased with his round: “I saw some signs of better putting. I think today I made some really good putts, I felt more comfortable on the greens. I freed up my stroke a little bit, that was good.
“I still made a couple of mistakes here and there, but it was kind of where it was tough not to make mistakes. It was fairly breezy out there. It was fairly low humidity throughout the day. The greens got pretty crusty, so it’s still not going to be easy for the leaders later.
“But it was a good round, it kind of kept me in the hunt. I felt like it would be a good, positive day. I started the day six back, and if I’m less than six back at the end of this, then I think it’s a good, positive day.”
135 P Reed (USA) 69 66,
137 M Leishman (Aus) 70 67,
139 H Stenson (Swe) 69 70,
140 J Spieth (USA) 66 74, R McIlroy (Nir) 69 71,
141 D Johnson (USA) 73 68, J Thomas (USA) 74 67,
142 B Watson (USA) 73 69, C Hoffman (USA) 69 73, T Finau (USA) 68 74, R Fowler (USA) 70 72, J Rose (Eng) 72 70, L Oosthuizen (RSA) 71 71,
143 B Wiesberger (Aut) 70 73, J Rahm (Esp) 75 68, M Kuchar (USA) 68 75, C Smith (Aus) 71 72,
144 T Fleetwood (Eng) 72 72, H Matsuyama (Jpn) 73 71, Z Johnson (USA) 70 74, J Walker (USA) 73 71, A Hadwin (Can) 69 75,
145 V Singh (Fij) 71 74, R Cabrera Bello (Esp) 69 76, H Li (Chn) 69 76, R Henley (USA) 73 72, S Kodaira (Jpn) 71 74,
146 J Vegas (Ven) 77 69, B Grace (RSA) 73 73, R Moore (USA) 74 72, F Couples (USA) 72 74, K Stanley (USA) 72 74, J Day (Aus) 75 71, F Molinari (Ita) 72 74,
147 M Kaymer (Ger) 74 73, D Berger (USA) 73 74, C Reavie (USA) 76 71, B Harman (USA) 73 74, K Kisner (USA) 72 75,
148 T Woods (USA) 73 75, B Dechambeau (USA) 74 74, A Scott (Aus) 75 73, S Kim (Kor) 75 73, B Langer (Ger) 74 74, D Ghim (am) (USA) 72 76,
149 P Mickelson (USA) 70 79, T Hatton (Eng) 74 75, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 79 70, X Schauffele (USA) 71 78, P Casey (Eng) 74 75, W Simpson (USA) 76 73, M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 75 74, I Poulter (Eng) 74 75,
150 J Dufner (USA) 73 77, S Lyle (Sco) 74 76, J Olazábal (Esp) 74 76, C Schwartzel (RSA) 72 78,
151 B Steele (USA) 76 75, T Pieters (Bel) 73 78, D Frittelli (RSA) 77 74, S Sharma (Ind) 77 74, P Cantlay (USA) 75 76, D Willett (Eng) 75 76, T Potter Jnr (USA) 73 78,
152 P Perez (USA) 73 79, W Bryan (USA) 74 78, P Kizzire (USA) 76 76, R Fisher (Eng) 78 74,
153 K Chappell (USA) 77 76, A Noren (Swe) 74 79, T Immelman (RSA) 78 75, Y Ikeda (Jpn) 76 77, J Niemann (am) (Chi) 76 77, D Redman (am) (USA) 76 77,
154 Y Miyazato (Jpn) 77 77, G Woodland (USA) 78 76, A Cook (USA) 74 80,
155 B Horschel (USA) 76 79, I Woosnam (Wal) 79 76, M Weir (Can) 76 79,
156 L Mize (USA) 76 80,
159 A Cabrera (Arg) 76 83, M O’Meara (USA) 78 81, S Garcia (Esp) 81 78, Y Lin (am) (Chn) 79 80,
160 M Parziale (am) (USA) 81 79,
166 H Ellis (am) (Eng) 86 80,