Patrick Reed Hits the Front at Augusta Following Stunning Round
HE ATTRACTED ridicule some years ago when he declared that he considered himself to be a "top-five-in-the-world" golfer. And Patrick Reed has given himself the opportunity to prove it as he heads into the third round of The Masters with a two-shot lead after a magnificent 66 took him to nine under par after 36 holes.
Reed had not broken 70 in 12 rounds at Augusta National before this week, but made light of testing conditions to add to his opening 69 and end the day two shots ahead of Australia’s Marc Leishman.
The leading pair are both seeking a first major title with Leishman having lost out in a playoff for the 2015 Open, but eight of the top 13 have at least one of the game’s biggest titles under their belts.
Former Open champion Henrik Stenson is four shots off the pace on five under par, with Rory McIlroy and 2015 winner Jordan Spieth another stroke back. Spieth led after the first day but struiggled to a 74 in the second round.
US PGA champion Justin Thomas matched Leishman’s 67 to finish three under par alongside the man he could replace as world number one, Dustin Johnson, with Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson all two under.
The biggest name missing from the top of the leaderboard was 14-time major winner Tiger Woods, who made the cut with a shot to spare after a disappointing 75.
McIlroy, needing to win to become just the sixth player to complete the career grand slam, added a 71 to his opening 69. All four of McIlroy’s major wins to date have been achieved after being in the top five after the first round, a statistic the 28-year-old was not aware of.
“I think once you get yourself up there, you’re playing well enough after day one that if you continue that good play, you should be up there for the rest of the tournament,” said McIlroy. “I’ve always felt comfortable being up around the lead. It’s a place that I’m thankfully quite familiar with and know how to deal with. I feel relaxed. I’m constantly having a conversation with myself about staying in the present and just one shot at a time and all the cliche stuff that you hear about. But it’s true.”
Spieth recovered from a nightmare start to card a 74 which included failing to make a single birdie on the front nine for the first time in his career.
“The first few holes I just hit it everywhere you can’t hit it,” said Spieth, who had led or shared the lead after nine of his previous 17 rounds in the Masters.
“I got a little brain-dead to start but to still be in the tournament after two rounds, would I have taken being in this position three or four weeks ago? Absolutely.”
Woods was among the late starters and had moved three shots closer to the lead without hitting a shot, but followed a perfect drive on the first by missing the green and making bogey to drop back to two over.
And things went from bad to worse for the 14-time major winner when he fired his approach into bushes over the green on the fifth to run up a double bogey. “I felt like I hit it off well off the tee,” Woods said after a round containing two birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey on the fifth.
“I hit my irons awful. I didn’t control my distance, my shape, spins. I left myself in bad spots and hit a lot of beautiful putts but didn’t make anything.
“I’m going to need a special weekend with two rounds in the mid-60s. I would have done it the first two days if I would have quit playing after 16! Let’s see if we can get it in 18 holes tomorrow.
“I’m so far back I’m going to need a lot of help. I’m not in control of my own destiny. But six months ago I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play golf again, so I’m just so grateful of the opportunity to play at the top level.”
Phil Mickelson, seeking to become the oldest winner in Masters history at 47, was two off the lead before running up a triple bogey on the ninth after his recovery attempt ricocheted off a tree.
And despite bouncing back immediately with a birdie on the 10th, the five-time major winner dropped five shots in his last eight holes to shoot 79 and make the cut on the mark of five over par.
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