World number one Scottie Scheffler underscored his newfound status as Tiger Woods fought back after a nightmare start to reach the halfway point in the 86th Masters.
Topping the rankings after three wins in his last five Augusta National starts, Scheffler just picked up where he left off with an excellent second-round 67, despite a blustery wind that made scoring difficult.
That left the 25-year-old American a total of eight under par at halftime and a record-breaking five-shot lead over defending champion Hideki Matsuyama, 2011 winner Charl Schwarzel, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and first-round leader Sungjae Im.
Four of the five previous players to hold such a half-lead in tournament history picked up the Green Jacket, most recently Jordan Spieth in 2015.
Lowry recovered from a bogey on the first to return a second round of 68, the former Open champion bolstered by slotting in from 38 yards for an unlikely birdie on the 10th.
“I’m in a great position,” Lowry said. “You will need everything to go your way to stand there on Sunday and get a green jacket.
“I’m where I want to be. I’m where I need to be It’s going to be tough, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Woods had hit an opening card of 71 on his last notable return from injury after the 15-time Major winner suffered serious leg injuries in a car accident in February last year.
But the 46-year-old got off to a nightmare start on Friday, bogeying four of his first five holes before seemingly stabilizing the ship with a birdie on the eighth.
A stunning approach on the 10th resulted in another birdie and although this was followed by dropshots on the 11th and 12th, birdies on the 13th and 14th saw Woods sign a 74 to finish an over par and his record, never miss a Masters, maintain cutting as a pro.
Woods said: “It was stormy and swirling everywhere. I got some bad gusts and made some bad swings on top of that. I told Joey (La Cava, his caddy) it’s tough on everyone, let’s get back for the day anyway.
“There are a few folks out there who aren’t having problems, Scottie and JT (Justin Thomas) are going about their business but hey I’ve made it, I’ve got a chance to go into the weekend.
“Tomorrow will be cool, it will be the course that Augusta National wants, faster, drier, faster and a great test.
“I’m not feeling as good as I’d like to be, but that’s okay. I have a chance to go into the weekend, hopefully have one of those aha moments and get it done. I have to get myself there, that’s the key.”
Schwarzel previously revealed he was inspired by footage of his previous Masters win to challenge for a second title.
The 37-year-old South African had missed the cut in each of his last six starts on the PGA Tour – and made headlines for throwing a racquet in frustration in the first round of the Valspar Championship – but found some form with a second round of 16 in the toughest conditions .
“The bad results didn’t really determine how I felt when I came in here,” said Schwartzel after a round with five birdies and two bogeys.
“I actually took two weeks off and over the course of the two weeks my confidence grew in believing that I could win this tournament because I was starting to hit it very well and I was just looking at old footage and it still is there is.”
Former champion Danny Willett led after a ninth-place birdie before eventually carding a 74 to be one under par, with Matt Fitzpatrick a shot behind and Robert MacIntyre, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy all two past.
McIlroy, who needs to win the Masters to complete a career grand slam, carded a second straight 73 and said: “I’m in a decent position.
“I would like to be at least a few strokes better, but I’m still on the right track. You go out tomorrow and play a decent front nine and suddenly you’re right in the middle of the action.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/scottie-scheffler-proves-top-ranking-as-tiger-woods-fights-back-in-masters-41536048.html Scottie Scheffler proves first place as Tiger Woods hits back in Masters