Day overcomes back issue to be among five Masters leaders

Jason Day birdies 15 during the second round of the Masters Tournament Friday, April 12, 2019, at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta. Jason Getz / Special to the AJC

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Jason Day birdies 15 during the second round of the Masters Tournament Friday, April 12, 2019, at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta. Jason Getz / Special to the AJC

Jason Day’s back woes continue – but by his play Friday you may have never known.

Day has battled back issues all year and has had several epidurals to deal with the pain. He had to withdraw from the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year. Day had another shot last week and thought he was fully ready to play the Masters.

That was until a simple gesture – he bent over to kiss his young daughter on the putting green before heading to the first tee on Thursday.

The excruciating pain was back.

After starting with a bogey, Day needed treatment on the second hole. Somehow, he went on to shoot 2-under par.

“I said to my caddie, Luke, I said, ‘If this stays the same pain as it was on the putting green, I'll probably end up withdrawing,’” Day said.

After more treatment overnight and Friday morning, Day finished with a round of 5-under par to join the crowded list atop the Masters leaderboard at 7-under par headed into the weekend.

“The first thing that went through my head (Thursday) was immediate frustration and disappointment, just knowing that I've actually been trying to do the right things, and I feel like things were progressing nicely, and then all of a sudden it just went out,” Day said.

Day had six birdies and just one bogey on Friday to rocket up the leaderboard and remain as several big names in the game joined him.

“I think it's just an appreciation of being able to play at this golf tournament,” Day said. “Being able to walk the grounds and play the golf course, and even if it is a little bit of pain, everyone ‑ like I said, all these golfers out here have some sort of pain, whether it's knees or feet or wrists or back. Everyone's playing through a little bit of pain. Sometimes it's worse than others.”

Four amatuers moving on

Four amateurs made the cut at this year’s Masters, the most since 1999. Alvaro Ortiz, Viktor Hovland, Devon Bling and Takumi Kanaya all qualified for the weekend.

Hovland, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, is a 1 under. Ortiz, who qualified by winning the Latin American Amateur, is at even par. Bling, runner-up at the U.S. Amateur, and Kanaya, winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur, are both at 3 over.

The last time four amateurs made the cut was 1999 and included Matt Kuchar and future Masters champions Sergio Garcia and Trevor Immelman.

Langer makes the cut

Bernhard Langer made the cut at the Masters for the 26th time in his career, moving him into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time list. The 61-year-old Langer trails only Jack Nicklaus (37), Gary Player (30), Fred Couples (30) and Raymond Floyd (27).

When asked about the 26 years of successful turns around Augusta National, Langer said “Is that all?”

Langer, a two-time Masters champion, is playing in his 36th Masters. He is one year shy of the record for the oldest player to make the cut at the tournament behind Player who did so at the age of 62 in 1998.

Rose misses the cut

Justin Rose ascended to World No. 1 this week but isn’t likely to stay there after missing the cut at the Masters for the first time in his career.

Rose put himself in jeopardy with a first-round 75. He appeared to change the momentum with a birdie at No. 12 and an eagle at No. 13 that left him at 1-over. But he finished with three bogeys on the final four holes, missing a four-footer on the final hole to seal his fate.

Rose finished at 4-over and will miss the cut for the first time in 14 trips. He had finished among the top 20 in his last nine trips to Augusta, with two runner-up finishes.

Also missing the cut was Sergio Garcia, who has now not been around for the weekend in the two years since he won the Masters. Garcia also finished at 4-over after a bogey on No. 18.

Other notables out include Stewart Cink (4 over), Brandt Snedeker (5 over) and Paul Casey (10 over).

-Stan Awtrey contributed to this report.