It's Masters week and there are a ton of stories going on all at once, so in an effort to condense things for you a bit, here are five things we learned from Friday's second round.
You can never count out Phil Mickelson — If there's one thing we've learned over the years when it comes to Phil at the Masters, it's that you should never count him out. One day after he had to grind out a 2-over 74 that included a triple-bogey on the 10th hole, Mickelson promised he'd get things in order before his second round ... and he did. With his second birdie of the week on the 18th hole, Lefty posted an impressive 4-under 68 that has him sitting at 2-under for the tournament going into the weekend. If he could just hit a couple greens and keep the scrambling to a minimum, he'd really be in a great position right now. He has the putter to thank (he's leading the field with just 51 putts through 36 holes) for keeping him within striking distance of the leaders.
Give Jason Dufner some credit for the way he's playing — On a leaderboard crowded with names like Couples, Westwood, Garcia, McIlroy and Watson, a guy like Jason Dufner can definitely get lost in the weeds. Despite being tied for the lead at 5-under, nobody's giving this guy a chance — especially after watching him choke away the lead at the PGA Championship last year. But before you cross his name off the list of potential major winners, remember that this tournament has a way of turning relative unknowns into stars ... like Charl Schwartzel and Trevor Immelman. Dufner has been there before and never seems to get nervous when the pressure mounts. That could change on Sunday if he's leading or a couple shots off the pace, but when a guy puts himself in a position to win in consecutive majors, you have to give him a little respect.
The cream rises to the top — Tiger Woods might be out of it, but just take a look at that beautiful Masters leaderboard. It includes names like Garcia, McIlroy, Westwood, Couples and Mickelson, to name a few. There's some serious star power on that board, folks. The talk coming into the week was this was the most highly-anticipated Masters in tournament history and with so many big names in contention, there's a good chance it could actually live up to the hype.
We have a Sergio Garcia sighting at Augusta — And we all thought an infected nail was going to ruin Garcia's Masters chances. Pfft. Garcia fired a 4-under 68 on Friday and now finds himself only one shot back of the lead. Just when we think the Spaniard is done, he reels us back in with a brilliant round. He's produced a few of them over the last six months, and even though Lee Westwood is the guy holding the best player to never win a major tag, you'd have to think Garcia's running a close second. The only thing holding him back from collecting his first green jacket is a big number. He's submarined a couple great weeks recently with a big hole, so it'll be interesting to see if he can keep it off the card over the weekend. This was only his second sub-70 round in his last 24 at the Masters.
Go low? Forget about it — You can put all those 63 or 64 predictions to bed; nobody's going that low this week. Mickelson and a number of golf scribes (myself included) figured a sub-63 round was possible with the soft conditions at Augusta National, but for the second straight day, players failed to go low. The lowest round on the day was Couples' 67, which was the exact same number Westwood shot yesterday to grab the first-round lead. With perfect weather conditions expected for the weekend, the course is going to firm up. Expect quick greens and rounds in the high 60s.
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