MASTERS: Stars shine Friday at tame Augusta National

Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the ninth tee during the second round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday

Rob Carr / Getty Images

So often the world’s best golfers are swept up in the magic of the Masters; this year it’s the Masters relying on them to provide the magic.

So far, so good.

The tournament began on Thursday with record low scoring, and for a while, you could even be excused for wondering if this was really the Masters.

There are no roars, no dazzling colours, and Augusta National has played soft and forgiving.

Beginning on split tees at the first and tenth holes to speed up play because of early sunsets, and with half the players on the course early Friday morning to complete a weather-delayed first round, everything seemed rather un-traditional, something the Masters is quite big on.

But as Friday went on, the magic eventually returned to the towering pines and flowing tributaries of Rae’s Creek. It was as if the weight of one last chance to win a major in this most unusual of years had set in among the players.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re teeing off on 10, 12, rain delays, whatever,” Phil Mickelson said after completing his second round. “We get a chance to compete for a green jacket, and we’re all very appreciative of that.”

Fifty-year-old Mickelson is just one of the game’s greats in contention heading to the weekend, having shot 69-70 to head into the third round at five-under par.

Mickelson is four shots back of world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Abraham Ancer and Cameron Smith, who share the 36-hole clubhouse lead with a nine-under par total after Friday’s action was halted due to darkness.

Tiger Woods has some work left to do in his second round, and will begin Saturday at four-under through 10 holes. Bernhard Langer continues to amaze and, at three-under par, the 63 years old will become the oldest player to make the cut at the Masters by 33 days over Tommy Aaron.

Forty-eight players will complete their second round on Saturday as the tournament finishes catching up from Thursday’s nearly three-hour weather delay.

The big-hitting Johnson, a perennial favourite at the Masters, woke up at 4 a.m. and played 27 holes on Friday after only making it through nine holes of his first round on Thursday.

“I’m as much of a morning person as anybody,” the laid-back Johnson said after his second round. “I just get up when I have to get up.”

Beginning the day at three-under, Johnson came out of the gate on fire Friday, completing his first round with five birdies on the back nine to shoot a seven-under 65. Heading straight back out to the course for his second round he kept the momentum going, birdieing three of his first four holes and reaching 10-under par before finishing the day at nine-under.

“I like where I’m at, I like my position,” Johnson said. “Obviously I feel like I’ll be somewhere around the lead, probably not in the lead, but within a few shots, at least, and in a good position heading into the weekend.”

Where Friday night’s leaders will stand heading into the final 36 holes won’t be determined until the rest of the field finishes the second round on Saturday morning.

Of players left on the course when play was stopped, Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama have the best chance to surpass the leaders. Both Rahm and Matsuyama are eight-under par through 12 and 15 holes respectively.

Other contenders forced to complete their second rounds on Saturday include Louis Oosthuizen (-7 thru 12), C.T. Pan (-7 thru 16), Paul Casey (-6 thru 11), Patrick Reed (-6 thru 11) and Xander Schauffele (-6 thru 12).

The cut line is also yet to be determined, and Nick Taylor is among players hoping it stays at level par after the Canadian shot 72-72 in his Masters debut. The 32-year-old didn’t sound optimistic.

“Pretty bad result, but I loved being out here, I tried to soak up every moment, so I’ll try to take some positives,” Taylor said. “Any time you’re at Augusta National, it’s a great week.”

Taylor was the only Canadian to get through 36 holes before play was stopped. Mike Weir (+1 thru 9), Adam Hadwin (+2 thru 13), and Corey Conners (-3 thru 16) will finish their second rounds Saturday morning.

Patrick Cantlay and 2019 PGA Tour rookie of the year Sungjae Im are in the clubhouse at eight-under par through 36 holes.

Rory McIlroy surged back with a second round 66, after shooting 75 in his first round. He will head to the final two rounds at three-under par.

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