Apr. 10—AUGUSTA — What a difference a day can make at Augusta National Golf Club.
Players at the Masters took advantage of cool, overcast conditions, less wind and softer greens Friday, producing 40 under-par rounds after only 12 of 88 players did so Thursday.
One thing that remained the same was the name at the top of the leaderboard, but there’s not nearly as much distance between Justin Rose and the rest of the field heading into the weekend.
Rose struggled early but made the birdies he needed to late in an even-par 72 that keeps him at 7 under. His four-shot lead after 18 holes is now just one over rookie Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman through 36.
“I think it was just a classic day at Augusta National when you’re just slightly off. You can be a foot or two out on certain occasions and you end up struggling,” said Rose. “… But again, I kind of told myself going up the eighth hole, ‘You’re leading the Masters, your frame of reference is a little bit different to yesterday. Four ahead is something, but you’re still leading so just enjoy it and keep going.'”
Only Harman and Hideki Matsuyama were within four of Rose after Thursday. Eleven players are now.
Zalatoris (68) and Harman (69) were among the last players into the field, earning invitations after climbing into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking at the last possible moment.
Marc Leishman (67) and Jordan Spieth (68) are two back, followed by a group of six that includes Justin Thomas (67) another shot behind. Si Woo Kim (69) is also in that group at 4 under despite putting with a fairway wood for the last four holes after slamming his putter and bending the shaft.
Rose dropped all the way to 4 under after making four bogeys in his first seven holes. For the second day in a row he gave himself a pep talk on No. 8, this time deciding to change his mindset to playing match play against the golf course.
He told himself he was down three holes and tried to beat the course from that point moving forward.
He birdied three of his final five holes, rolling in 20-footers on 14 and 16, to get back to even for the day — and even in his match against Augusta National.
“I had a putt on 18 to win my match 1-up, but unfortunately it just slipped by,” he said. “But an honorable draw.”
Harman finished birdie-birdie for his second consecutive 69, a nice start for the former Georgia Bulldog making his third career Masters start and first since 2018.
Zalatoris did him one better, birdieing his final three holes for a back-nine 31. The Masters rookie will play in Saturday’s final pairing with Rose, but he doesn’t expect to feel intimidated. He didn’t have Tour status 17 months ago and had to Monday qualify his way into Korn Ferry Tour events, then play well there to earn special exemptions.
He made it all the way through the KFT Finals, then continued his hot play on the PGA Tour to reach No. 46 in the world. Needless to say, he knows what pressure feels like and has shown he knows how to handle it — but not yet at a major, and not yet at Augusta National.
“It can be but, like I said, I wanted to be here my entire life,” he said. “Some people shy away from that, but I’m excited to be here. I’ve wanted to be here forever. There’s no reason to feel intimidated now. I made it to here. And obviously the job is not done by any means, but I think standing on the first tee and hearing your name called, that’s something that every kid dreams of.”
Leishman got off to a hot start for the second day in a row, and this time he didn’t give it all back. He made only one bogey and is back in the hunt after top-10s here in 2018 and 2013.
Spieth, who last week snapped an 82-start winless streak, is in good shape for the weekend after making three birdies over his final six holes. Since his triple bogey on the ninth hole Friday, he’s played Augusta National in 6 under.
“I mean, having made a triple and having five over-par holes through two rounds, I feel pretty good about being at 5 under,” he said.
Not sticking around for the weekend is defending champion Dustin Johnson (75), who bogeyed 18 and finished 5 over to miss the cut by two shots. Brooks Koepka (75), playing less than a month after knee surgery, also missed by two to end a streak of 24 consecutive made cuts in majors.
Kevin Kisner (77) made just one birdie and missed the cut for the second Masters in a row, and Rory McIlroy (74) missed the cut for only the second time in 13 career Masters starts.
Those notable names are gone, but by no means does that mean the leaderboard is littered with no-names. Rose is well aware of the firepower behind him, and he can feel the heat from much closer now that the gap has been narrowed.
“You just have to keep hitting the shots,” he said. “I’m not going to worry about a score. I think it’s hard enough just to keep playing shot by shot rather than even sort of trying to piece scores together day by day.”