Wednesday 23 January 2019

Reed burns it up to shoot clear of nervy Masters pack

Tiger Woods shares a joke with Marc Leishman during the second round at Augusta
Tiger Woods shares a joke with Marc Leishman during the second round at Augusta

James Corrigan

On a second day when Augusta National proffered a far from gentle reminder that it still possesses a nasty set of molars, Patrick Reed was making it look toothless in the evening shadows.

The US Ryder Cup man was at seven under for the day going to 16, ten under overall, before dropping a shot on the way home to card a blistering 66. That put him two clear of Marc Leishman (67) and four ahead of Henrik Stenson (70).

But Jordan Spieth's experience summed up the duplicitous nature of this unique challenge.

After 17 holes of his first round, the 2015 champion - who so famously blew it a year later when five clear with nine remaining - was on seven under and in apparent cruise control, having reeled off five birdies in succession. And how did his next three holes pan out? Bogey, double-bogey, bogey.

The 24-year-old had so quickly plummeted back to three under but, fortunately for him, the cushion he had made with his staggering Thursday run meant that his fall was not nearly as precipitous as might have been.

Indeed, when he signed for a 74 to finish on four under overall, he was joint clubhouse leader with Rory McIlroy, albeit Reed and Leishman, were about to spring spectacularly from the pack with birdie, birdie, birdie starts.

Leishman would finish on seven under in the end while playing partner, Tiger Woods, just about ensured he'd be around for the weekend, finishing on four over, a stroke inside the 'cut' mark.

Spieth looked nervous from the off, slicing his drive off the par-four first into the trees and making a six as a result. On the par-five second, he three-putted for another six and he was seemingly in a spiral, but calmed himself to play the next 14 holes in two under.

If there appeared to be a big loser on this second day, it was Phil Mickelson. After his first title in five years at last month's WGC-Mexico, the 47-year-old arrived with such hope of becoming the Masters' oldest ever champion.

And when he moved to three-under with a birdie on the second, the galleries sensed history could indeed be afoot. Alas, it was to go badly awry for the three-time champion.

It was from between the trees at Augusta National that Mickelson produced one of the greatest shots in Masters history, but the wizard of the woods was all out of magic during the most harrowing of second rounds here.

A collision with the trees on the ninth hole left a major dent in Mickelson's hopes of becoming the oldest winner of the Green Jacket, and sparked a catastrophic sequence of events which turned his round from promising to pitiful.

Mickelson's remarkable six-iron from the pine straw in 2010, which set him on his way to his third Masters title, is regarded as one of the finest shots ever played at this venerable course. So the patrons who had followed him over an encouraging first eight holes would have been forgiven for expecting to see more of the same after he skewed his tee shot so far to the right that it was closer to the eighth fairway than ninth.

Mickelson was confronted with a tree to his right and two more to his left. Never one to take the conservative option, he tried to slash his shot through the middle. But instead of emerging into the Georgian sun, his ball cannoned back off the bark, shooting through the patrons and deeper into the dark.

"I just hit the tree," he said. "There was plenty of a gap." He eventually tapped in for a triple-bogey.

It got worse from there. A bogey on the 11th soon followed, as did a double-bogey on the 12th after the master of the flop shot had plopped his ball into the water. "Poor execution," as he said, with some understatement.

An hour earlier, Mickelson had spurned two birdie opportunities that would have taken him level with the leaders at three shots under par. Now, he was three over

Two further bogeys, on 16 and 18, completed a damaging, dispiriting day and left him signing for a second-round 79 after starting proceedings at a heartening two-under-par.

He has looked his 47 years at times this week but his game remains as adventurous as ever. Here, that ambition was arguably his downfall.

Mickelson admitted to feeling the pressure at Augusta

"As you get older you feel a little bit more pressure at each one, because you don't feel as though you have an unlimited number of events," he said.

"I certainly put a lot of pressure on myself to perform this week." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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