Sunday 26 January 2020

McIlroy among chasing pack after Spieth struggles in Masters second round

The American dropped three shots in his first two holes at Augusta National.

By Phil Casey, Press Association Sport Golf Correspondent

Rory McIlroy was among the players trying to take advantage as a nightmare start to the second round from overnight leader Jordan Spieth threw the 82nd Masters wide open.

Spieth held a two-shot overnight lead after an opening 66, but saw that disappear with a double bogey on the first after driving into the trees to the right of the fairway.

Another errant tee shot on the par-five second and a three-putt from long range added up to a second consecutive six, while a poor bunker shot on the seventh also resulted in a bogey.

Spieth went to the turn in 40 and failed to card a single birdie on the front nine at Augusta National for the first time in his career, but remarkably was just a shot off the lead as the majority of the field struggled to master a swirling breeze.

Matt Kuchar, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Bernd Wiesberger and Marc Leishman shared the lead on three under, with McIlroy alongside Spieth on two under and the top 33 players separated by just four shots.

McIlroy’s round got off to a poor start when he three-putted the first, but the Northern Irishman holed from 30 feet for birdie on the second and just three feet for another on the third.

That briefly gave him a share of the lead with Kuchar, but he was unable to save par from the back of the fourth green and dropped another shot on the sixth.

The omens could hardly have been better for McIlroy as he looked to strengthen his bid for the career grand slam, the 28-year-old breaking 70 in the first round at Augusta National for just the second time.

That left McIlroy in a tie for fourth and the last four times he was in the top five after the first round of a major he went on to win it, the former world number one claiming the 2011 US Open, the US PGA Championship in 2012 and 2014 and the 2014 Open Championship.

The biggest stumbling block between McIlroy joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in winning all four majors appeared to be Spieth, whose opening 66 means he has amazingly led or shared the lead after nine of his 17 rounds at Augusta.

Spieth led after the third round in 2014, from start to finish in 2015 and for 54 holes in defence of his title, although he did then blow a five-shot lead with nine holes to play as Danny Willett took full advantage with a closing 67.

Woods was among the late starters and had moved three shots closer to the lead without hitting a shot, but followed a perfect drive on the first by missing the green and making bogey to drop back to two over.

Phil Mickelson, seeking to become the oldest winner in Masters history at 47, was two off the lead before running up a triple bogey on the ninth after his recovery attempt ricocheted off a tree.

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