Day atop Masters leaderboard heading to weekend
by Al Muskewitz
Apr 13, 2013 | 3767 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rickie Fowler, right, lines up his putt as Jason Day, of Australia, walks off the 13th green during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Rickie Fowler, right, lines up his putt as Jason Day, of Australia, walks off the 13th green during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jason Day stands over every shot here feeling like it’s the biggest shot he’s ever hit in his life. This place, this tournament, this major, has a way of making you feel that way.

With that kind of approach — provided, of course, he keeps pulling them off — he could be wearing a green jacket come Sunday evening.

He’s already halfway there.

The 25-year-old Australian hit enough good shots Friday to fashion a 4-under-par 68 on a windy day to grab the 36-hole lead in the 77th Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Day’s two-day total of 6-under 138 is one shot better than first-round co-leader Marc Leishman (73) and ageless Fred Couples (71). Angel Cabrera (69), Jim Furyk (71) and Brandt Snedeker (70) are all another shot back at 140. Tiger Woods is among seven players at 141.

“This is my favorite tournament of the year; I love this place,” said Day, a runner-up here in 2010. “Everything that I can do, I want to peak at this event because it’s just the best tournament in the world.

“Not many people get to say that they have had the lead a couple of times at the Masters. I’m just really looking forward to the challenge over the weekend.”

Others are just glad to be there.

Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old phenom from China, overcame the first one-shot penalty for slow play in Masters history and made the cut on the number — as did defending champion Bubba Watson. By making the cut, Guan, already the youngest Masters participant, becomes the youngest player to play on the weekend in a PGA Tour event or major.

Sixty-one players made the cut — expanded this year to the top 50 and ties and anyone within 10 shots of the lead — like Guan and Watson. Because of the odd number of players making the cut, Watson will play with a non-competing marker today.

If not for a horrendous break on his shot into the par-5 15th, Tiger Woods could be leading the tournament and potentially eliminated both Guan and Watson.

Woods, looking for his 15th major title and first since 2008, was 5-under for the tournament when he came to 15. He had to lay up in front of the water, then his approach hit the flagstick and caromed back into the water. He dropped from a spot two yards behind the original, because he didn’t like the drop zone, took another two yards off the shot and this time hit it tight. But he went from looking at birdie to take the lead with three holes to play to bogey.

He closed with the first three-putt of his career on 18 to finish with 38 on the back, 71 for the round and three shots off the pace.

“My ball-striking was so good today; even my misses were on top of the flag,” Woods said. “I really swung the club well and didn’t really get a lot out of this round.”

After Woods dropped back, Day made birdie on 16 to get to 6-under. He missed a birdie putt on 17 that would have knocked Guan off the number, and made par from the fairway bunker on 18.

Leishman started the day tied for the lead with Sergio Garcia, but Garcia dropped two shots early in the round and never got them back. Leishman looked like he was headed the same way but birdied 7 and 8 to get back to 6-under and stayed there until he bogeyed 14.

“I was very happy, especially the way I started,” he said. “The back nine was playing really tough, so to grind it out and only shoot 1-over around there when I missed a couple of greens in places you don’t want to miss … it was good to get out of there relatively unscathed.”

Couples, 53, was headed down the board early as well, especially after making a mess of No. 7, taking double bogey to go 2-over for the day.

But he bounced back with a two-putt birdie from 100 feet on the par-5 eighth and made two birdies on the back.

“I had a couple of little hiccups out there and did some other good things to shoot my score, but the golf course is winning today,” Couples said. “That two-putt on 8 was kind of like a sigh of relief. From then on, I played really, really well.”

The question with Couples, given his age, is how long he can keep it going. He led after the opening round in 2010 and finished sixth. He led after the second round last year and shot 75-72 on the weekend to finish tied for 12th.

He has never won the tournament after leading one of the rounds, and the older he gets, the more difficult it would seem for him to pull it off.

“I’d like to have another run,” he said. “I’ve been working on my game and you know sometimes it catches on. I did tee off Thursday with the idea of playing well and now it’s Friday afternoon late. I’m surprised, but I’m not like, you know, freaked out about it.”

Day said he won’t be concerned that Woods is looming so close behind — or any other of the challengers for that matter. His focus is all ahead.

“I don’t need to worry about him,” he said. “The moment I start worrying about other players is the moment I start losing focus on what I need to do, and when I do that, I’ll start making bogeys.

“Obviously, it’s great to have the lead. I’m very excited for the challenge over the next two days. It really is exciting to have the opportunity to win the Masters. I’m very, very happy where I am right now.”

Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.
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