AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods might be the biggest story of the 86th Masters.
But everyone is chasing the hottest player on the planet, world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who has a 5-stroke lead going into Saturday’s third round at Augusta National Golf Club.
Scheffler’s lead is the largest 36-hole lead in Masters history. Five other players trailed by as many strokes after two rounds, including Harry Cooper in 1936, Herman Keizer in 1946, Jack Nicklaus in 1975, Raymond Floyd in 1976 and Jordan Spieth in 2015. All but Cooper ended up winning a green jacket.
Full list of tee times for Round 3
Here’s what to keep an eye out for Saturday at Augusta National:
Can anyone catch Scheffler?
Scheffler, 25, has had a meteoric rise over the past two months. After failing in his first two seasons on tour, Scheffler has won three times in his last five starts – at the WM Phoenix Open in February and at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in March.
Since the Official World Golf Rankings began in 1986, no player has won their first PGA Tour or DP World Tour event, climbed to No. same year. There have been 25 different players to reach world No. 1, and Scheffler has a chance to become the first player to accomplish all three feats in the same year, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
But Scheffler has never been ahead in a major championship. His previous record was a tie for second after 54 holes at the 2020 PGA Championship; he finished tied for fourth place. He is the third world No. 1 to hold or share the lead of the 36 holes of the Masters. Of the previous two, one of them won (Dustin Johnson in 2020) and one of them lost (Greg Norman in 1996).
Can Scheffler keep his head?
“If anything, [having the lead] gives me more confidence,” Scheffler said. “Once I saw that I had taken the lead at some point [Friday], and my first thought was to keep trying to build it just because I feel like I’m playing well. This will be the objective of entering [the third round], just to keep putting myself in good positions, executing shots. As long as I commit to everything, everything should be fine. The rest is really not up to me.”
Tiger Woods talks about his second round and is happy to have a chance ahead of the weekend.
In his first start in an official event in over 17 months, Woods, who has won here five times, is 9 strokes behind Scheffler. But he is only 4 shots from second place.
Woods, 46, had to work especially hard to stay in the game after missing four of his first five holes on Friday. He rebounded with four birdies on his last 11 holes and missed a few other good chances.
All in all, it was a daring performance for Woods, who was seriously injured in a car crash outside Los Angeles on Feb. 23, 2021.
“I felt good about the way I fought back [Friday]”Woods said. “I could have easily kicked myself out of the tournament today, but I held on. Tomorrow is going to be an important day, as cool and as difficult as they predict. It’s gonna be quick, and I gotta get out there and get on with it. If you’re under five or six on that back nine before Sunday, you have a chance, so I just gotta get there. »
Woods said he was happy his surgically repaired right leg held out for the first 36 holes.
“It worked really well,” he said. “I was hoping for no setbacks along the way where I couldn’t go, but I haven’t had any setbacks. Everything has been good, has been tough. My team has done a hell of a job getting me ready. Once I’ve moved on and paused [my body] there they go ahead and fix it at night.”
Justin Thomas is not angry anymore
Justin Thomas was with Woods when he traveled to Augusta National a week ago to test out his right leg while playing 18 holes with his son, Charlie. He played two nine-hole practice rounds with Woods earlier this week.
On Thursday, it didn’t look like Thomas had gained much knowledge of the 15-time major champion’s journey. But after a first-round 76, Thomas warmed up and bounced back with a 5-under 67 in the second. He is tied for 10th at 1 under over 36 holes.
Thomas tied the lowest score of the second round and kept alive his streak of 18 straight cuts, which is the longest of any player on tour. His 9 shot improvement was also the best among players on the field.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Thomas said of Thursday’s first round. “That was by far the most pissed off I’ve been after a ride in a long, long time. I don’t know. It was just one of those weird days [Thursday] where I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t enter the tower. I just couldn’t get into the moment, which is sad and disappointing in the first round of the Masters.”
Thomas said he passed out while playing with his dog.
“I played fetch with my dog for about 45 minutes, and [his fiancee] Jill was there with me,” Thomas said. “I just sulked and pissed and moaned for about 30 minutes, then I had dinner and went to bed. All good.”
The place brings out the best in them
There are plenty of household names in the Masters standings, including several former champions who haven’t played particularly well.
Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, the 2011 champion, is tied for second at under 3. He is ranked No. 172 in the world and has missed the cut seven times in nine homer starts this season.
“The bad results didn’t really determine how I felt coming here,” Schwartzel said. “I actually took two weeks off. Over the two weeks, my confidence grew in the belief that I could win this tournament because I was starting to hit it really well. [I] I just looked at some old pictures, and they’re still there.”
Schwartzel said he watched the best moments of his Masters win and started to believe he could do it again. When asked what struck him most about winning Augusta National 11 years ago, he had a simple answer.
“Put on the green jacket at the end,” Schwartzel said.
Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama, who has battled back and neck injuries, is also tied for second at 3 under. Dustin Johnson, the 2019 champion, is tied for sixth at 2 under. Danny Willett, who won a green jacket in 2016, is tied for 10th at 1 under.
Willett had missed the cut at the Masters in four of his last five starts. He hasn’t finished in the top 20 on tour since finishing tied for 18th at the RBC Classic in March 2021.
“We’re in a good position,” Willett said. “I [haven’t] I’ve been in this position for a while, and it’s nice to be here.”
Can Harold Varner III break the rookie drought?
Harold Varner III was among the last six players to make the Masters line-up by being ranked in the world top 50 as of March 28. He makes the most of his opportunity.
Varner is tied for sixth at 2 under after posting 1 under 71 in each of the first two rounds.
Varner won the Saudi International in early February with a 92-foot eagle putt on the 72nd hole. He finished tied for sixth at The Players in mid-March.
“I think winning is just winning,” he said. “I never doubted I could win, but it just never happened. I’ve been there, shot high numbers when it mattered a lot, and I guess the maturity. But the thing the most important thing is simply to lead my journey.”
Varner said some of the best advice he received came from Woods.
“I never forget, Tiger told me the biggest thing,” Varner said. “I asked him, ‘What does it take to win?’ He said, ‘You stop worrying about winning, you’ll keep it.’ It helped my behavior to do what I’m good at, playing golf, hitting the shot that requires it, I think you have to do that a lot here.
Varner is enjoying his first Masters appearance with his parents and young son, Liam.
“It’s amazing,” Varner said. “I just saw my dad for the first time. He doesn’t like to watch. He gets too nervous, but I saw my mom. I can’t wait to see my child. Like I said earlier, he’s probably going to vomit on me. Yeah, that’s great.