“I wouldn’t say much changes,” he said of the final two rounds. “I’m still playing the golf course. There’s still (52) guys in the field, something like that, I’m sure, and I can’t worry about what those guys are doing.”
With the grounds drying but still soft from two days of mid-week rain, the wind grew throughout the day, gusting from 15 to 25 mph and higher. The direction? All over the compass.
“It was supposed to be west-southwest all day, and there was no way,” 2018 champion Patrick Reed said. “There were certain parts of that golf course, I swear, felt completely different and played differently.”
Lowry, who has lurked around the past two Masters with a couple top-25 finishes, tied his best round here with his 68 but came off the 18th green sounding as if he’d been sparring with bare knuckles.
“I didn’t enjoy it really much at all,” he said. “It was so hard out there. Look, it was one of my better rounds of my career, I think. It was quite tricky out there, quite difficult.”
Scheffler somehow remained impervious. After recovering from two bogeys in his first three holes, he made the turn with a one-shot edge and took off around Amen Corner, saving par with a seven-foot putt on No. 11, birding the par-3 12th from 12 feet and then birdieing the par-5 No. 13 from four feet after hitting his lay-up off a muddy lie into a flock of photographers to the right of fairway. A nine-footer on the par-5 15th put him at 7 under and a seven-foot birdie on the 16th extended his lead to five shots, while the rest of the field could only stand still. Appropriately, he saved par on No. 18 from the pine straw to the right.
“Well, I definitely feel like I was in a fight today,” said Scheffler, already a three-time winner on the PGA Tour this season. “But I guess the only thing I would say to that is maybe I just performed a little bit better. But I’m definitely a little bit tired right now after the grind of today.”
Hats blew off from the galleries and flew onto the greens. The most certain club selections became a crap shoot. Im saw a seven-shot turnaround from his opening 67 to a second-round 74 and still held on to a piece of second place.
“Everything was very confusing when I was trying to decide on hitting shots,” Im said. “Some of the headwinds with the iron selection was difficult, but things didn’t go well. But I still have two more days.”
“It was tough,” Schwartzel said. “I think we had a little fortune this morning. It was very cold, but we didn’t deal with a lot of wind for the first five or six holes. Started picking up around 7, 8, and then the back nine it was pretty much this. It got hard.”
Among the few able to progress up the board was Collin Morikawa, who shot 70 while making just one bogey and but still stood seven shots off the pace.
“It’s a lot of guessing, a lot of just trusting what you are going to do, but it’s weird,” he said. “Yesterday I probably felt the most comfortable I’ve ever felt at Augusta National, which is, obviously, nice. Today just kind of kept fighting and posted a nice round.”
Corey Conners, who played a morning tee time, managed a 73 to reach even par and announced, “Feeling good to be finished.”
There have been far more turbulent days at Augusta National. The standard for bluster was most probably established in 1956, when Ken Venturi carried an eight-shot lead into some 40-mph conditions on Sunday and shot 80, allowing Jack Burke to swipe the championship with a closing 71. Burke’s 289 set a Masters record that still stands for highest winning total. In all, 87 rounds of 80 or more were booked that week.
This field has produced just 12 80-plus rounds thus far but even after Thursday’s similarly challenging conditions, every scoring category surged Friday. The average score jumped from 73.83 to 74.60. Scores of bogey or higher increased from 379 to 416.
Fifty-two players made the cut at 4-over 148. The list of those missing the cut could comprise a pretty strong fantasy team on another week. Headed home were Jordan Speith and Brooks Koepka (both 6-over 150), Stewart Cink (despite a hole-in-one on No. 16) and Xander Schauffele (7-over 151), Justin Rose (8-over 152) and Bryson DeChambeau (12-over 156) with a second-round 80.
“Par is a great score,” Schwartzel said. “I think if you shoot level par around here in these conditions, you are playing good golf.”