Generation Game on! Mix of young and old makes it an Augusta for the ages
00:14 GMT, 7 April 2012
Four charismatic players spanning four different generations sent excitement levels soaring at Augusta National on Sunday and summed up the timeless appeal of the Masters.
Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples are in their twenties, thirties, forties and fifties respectively.
Scroll down for the full leaderboard after the second round at the Augusta National
Standing tall: Fred Couples is the surprise name on the top of the leaderboard at Augusta
Trouble: Lee Westwood chips to the 18th where he had a torrid time
Spread out over these sacred acres
they played their parts as fluidly as any string quartet to take their
places on a leaderboard that positively demands you find a cosy armchair
to watch from on Saturday night. It should be quite a performance.
Leading the way are 52-year-old Couples and unsung American Jason Dufner, who lost a play-off for the US PGA Championship last August.
Away: Rory McIlroy knocks out of a bunker on the 17th
Then come Garcia and McIlroy a stroke
behind, alongside Lee Westwood, 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and
another popular American, Bubba Watson, with Masters specialist Phil
Mickelson only three back after a 68, alongside the dogged Scot Paul
Lawrie, who finished his round with three successive birdies.
Appetising enough for you In
time-honoured fashion it seems only right we allow age to come before
beauty and the remarkable 67 composed by Couples. Heaven knows what
happens to him when he finds himself turning into Magnolia Lane, but the
years just melt away.
Twenty years on from his victory here, he can’t win again — can he — but it will be enthralling watching him try.
Chance: Bubba Watson is in with a shot
‘Everyone knows this is my favourite
place in golf and it feels a little bizarre to be leading but I just
feel young again when I come here,’ said the oldest player to lead at
the half-way stage.
'It was a truly magical day.’ It was
that all right, and it was shocking too late on, as Tiger Woods
unravelled on the back nine to finish with a 75 that left him eight
Oops: Tiger Woods did not have a good day
With Woods among the later starters,
the most popular spot on a chilly morning was not trampling along with
Couples or even joining Mickelson but marching with McIlroy.
All these years after Arnie’s Army
came Rory’s Regiment and rather appropriately for such a crowd-pleaser
he was dressed in an outer jacket of Tiger-red.
Ninety degrees on Monday, it was
barely 45 when he stepped on to the first tee yesterday. Outside the
ropes his father Gerry felt his driving had been a touch awry on the
first day and here again McIlroy’s long game early on was a little short
of the trademark smoothness to which we have become accustomed.
Rise: Jason Dufner is joint leader overnight
Thanks to his own work ethic and the
input of short game coach Dave Stockton, McIlroy has far more weapons
these days than a stupendous long game. Whatever happened to the kid who
couldn’t hole a putt in last year’s tournament
Here, from the second, he enjoyed a
wonderful run of six single putts in a row. Most were of decent length,
too. Three were for pars, three for birdies as the 22-year-old built on
the momentum established in the evening shadows the previous day when he
had finished birdie, birdie.
Hot form: Phil Mickelson strolls under the sun on a good day for him
It had felt like a warning to everyone else at the time, and it became even more so as he continued his charge into contention.
‘It definitely gave me a positive outlook,’ he confirmed.
McIlroy reached the turn in 33 strokes. The inward half was more prosaic but, one year on from his Masters meltdown, the man who has finished in the top five in 12 of his last 13 events is right where he needs to be once more.
Like Westwood, Garcia carries the scars from major near misses into this weekend and you can only wish him well as he tries to get over the finishing line once more.
Let's go: Westwood hits a tee shot on the 14th
Totting up: Sergio Garcia marks his scorecard on the 18th
His putting woes have been
well-documented and you fear for the 31-year-old Spaniard on these slick
greens under the ultimate pressure. But this was not the day to worry,
not after a marvellous demonstration of ball-striking in a fine 68.
Then there was the indomitable Mickelson, who stood four over par after 10 holes on Thursday after losing a ball. Now he has fought back so well he will be the man the Europeans might fear most this weekend, with his awesome record of three wins and eight other top seven finishes here to sustain him.
Up there: Fred Couples (right) shakes hands with Ryo Ishikawa
As on the first day he came up with a
grandstand finish, holing a long bomb for a birdie at the last to the
obvious rapture of the patrons. ‘Given where I was after 10 holes
yesterday, it feels terrific to be so close to the lead,’ he said.
Lawrie’s round was meandering nowhere until an unlikely holed 55ft birdie putt at the 16th sparked an improbable finish that has brought him back into the mix. ‘I’m not going to get too ahead of myself, just try and enjoy it over the weekend and see what happens,’ said the 1999 Open champion.
Bridge view: Miguel Angel Jimenez hits a shot from the fairway on the 13th hole
Ian Poulter’s second successive 72
has left him five back — alongside Justin Rose and Padraig Harrington —
and featured one of the finest shots he has ever played. It came at the
par-five 13th and was Seve-good. After going through the back of this
green into the woodland, Poulter found himself taking his stance either
side of a small azalea bush, with the ball partly buried.
With his backswing restricted the fear was the flamboyant one wouldn’t advance the ball at all, or thin it across the green and back into Rae’s Creek.
Loft: Garcia goes for a chip to the 18th green
The worries faded thanks to a dazzling moment of short game magic that saw the ball finish 4ft from the hole. Poulter responded to the roars emanating from the crowd, acknowledging them with a series of fist pumps before taking a deserved bow. When he knocked in the putt for a birdie four he was two under par.
A poor tee shot at the 16th undid the heroics, however, as his ball found the water for an ugly double bogey. It has left him with an outside tilt at the title.
Struggle: After a bad first round, the second did not get a lot better