Augusta, Ga. (AP) – Tiger Woods and many others were able to cope with the roaring winds of Georgia Pine at the Masters on Friday.
And then Scotty Scheffler makes it even harder.
During his debut as the new No. 1 player in the world, Schaefler saw the part. He was bogey-free in the final 15 holes for the 5-under 67, setting a Masters record by creating a five-shot lead over the weekend.
Only four players in Masters history have led with five shots after 36 holes, most recently Jordan Spith in 2015. They all went to win.
The 25-year-old Texas Longhorn Schaffler has won three of his last five starts on the PGA Tour and does not seem to have dominated the stage at the Augusta Nationals.
He was 8-under 136, five shots clear from defending champion Hideki Matsuyama (69), former champion Charles Schwartzel (69), former British Open champion Shane Lori (68) and 18-hole leader Sungzai Im (74).
Woods was nine shots behind, even a hard work with two good legs.
Despite having four bogeys after five holes, Woods patched 74s together and reached the weekend in his first 72-hole event since the November 2020 Masters.
“Hey, I cut. I got a chance to go on the weekend,” Woods said. “I think it’s going to be the golf course that Augusta National wants. It’s going to be faster, drier, faster. It’s going to be a great test.”
Former Masters champion Dustin Johnson (73) led a group at 2-under 142, while another shot was backed by two-time major champion Colin Marikawa and former PGA champion Justin Thomas, who matched Schaffler in less than 67 days.
Schaefler made his mistakes quickly and began to take control with two birdies just before the turn. After saving a hard par from the right of the 11th green, he added two birdies from par-12 12th foot and a hard pitch to the right from the 5th par.
By then, the wind had begun to recede towards the end of the afternoon and Schaefler began to move away with two more birdies which made him a clear and solid target for the weekend.
And just two months ago, he still hadn’t won the PGA Tour.
Woods made it through another hike in the unconventional terrain of Augusta National, his leg was more noticeable from his right foot stuck with rods and screws in a car accident 14 months ago.
“I don’t feel as good as I want to,” Woods said with a laugh. “Okay. Like I said, I got a chance to go on the weekend. Hopefully, I’ll turn on one of those light bulb moments and turn it on on the weekends and get it done.”
His father was not helping. Not all the original putts made by Woods in the opening round fell on Friday as he deposited four bogies in his starting five holes, raising the question of whether his unlikely return to the Masters would last only two days.
And now he has two more.
Descending from a continuous bogie at the start of Amen Corner, he had more problems in Par-5 13 except that he missed enough to set up a pitch-end-put to stay on the right side of the Rice Creek tributary. Birds
“It was hard for everyone,” Woods said, and there was a small smile a moment ago. “Of course, there are some people out there who aren’t struggling.”
One of them will be Sheffler, who has everyone’s attention.
Another was Thomas, with whom Woods played his practice round last week and in the days leading up to the Masters. He opened with 76 and spent the rest of the day frustrated at seeing a lost opportunity.
He completed his 67 runs with three birdies along the back nine.
“I could go home very easily now, and I’m not the only one, but I’m in a really good place this weekend,” said Thomas.
He was seven behind, though he wasn’t surprised that Scheffler was able to post such a good round to create a big lead.
“If I play the way I did yesterday, I should be with him,” said Thomas. “This place, I like it because you can make a lot of birdies – even in this situation, if you make your way and you know how to get it, you can make a lot of birdies. If the ball is out of control.
“He’s clearly in control of everything right now based on the last few months, so I’m not too surprised,” he added. “But yes, I would appreciate it if he stopped going too far.”