Rose blooms again on back nine to keep sole lead; Spieth two behind; DJ, Rory miss cut

Justin Rose. File Pic

April 10-11: Justin Rose did not look like he was going to keep his first round lead of four shots as he slipped to three-over for the front nine on the second round at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia.

Yet, the 2013 US Open winner, who has two runner-up finishes at the Masters in the past, found his way back on the home stretch with three birdies and an even par 72 card that pegged him at 7-under. The lead had shrunk from  four to one, but he was still the sole leader.

Ten players were within three shots of Rose. The chasers included former Masters champion Jordan Spieth, who is coming off a victory last week in the Valero Texas Open and is starting to look like the Spieth of old, even at age 27. He has made a triple and five over-par holes through two rounds, but still added a 68 to his 71 and is two shots behind.

The two closest to Rose would have been happy to tee up on Thursday.  Brian Harman, barely inside the top 100 in the world a month ago, saw his fortunes change with two good weeks and an entry into Masters. The other was 24-year-old Will Zalatoris, who recently was playing on the Korn Ferry Tour and doesn’t have a full PGA TOUR card.

Even as the challenge began for a whole lot of players, it ended for some very big names including defending champion Dustin Johnson, whose tenure as the Masters champion ended in just around five months, the shortest ever. Brooks Koepka’s return from a knee injury also ended early and Rory McIlroy’s attempt at a career class also ended in 36 holes, at least this year.

Among the notables to make the cut on the number were past champions Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott. Apart from Johnson, Koepka and McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day and Lee Westwood also exited early.

Rose is followed by Harman (69) and Zalatoris (68), who are at 6-under, while Jordan Spieth (68) and Marc Leishman (67) are at 5-under.

The huge bunch of six players at Tied-sixth included Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and Tony Finau who had 66 each, Justin Thomas (67), Si Woo Kim (69), Cameron Champ (68) and Hideki Matsuyama (71).

In case Rose wins, he will join five other wire-to-wire winners of the Masters (Jordan Spieth/2015, Raymond Floyd/1976, Jack Nicklaus/1972, Arnold Palmer/1960, Craig Wood/1941).

Zalatoris birdied final three holes for a 4-under 68, moving within one of Rose and if he wins, he will become the first player to win in his debut Masters appearance since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Third at the 2020 US Open, he now has 10 top-25 finishes in 14 starts this season. A win would also make him the first player to earn first PGA TOUR win in a major since Danny Willett at the 2016 Masters

Asian challenge – Kim and Matsuyama keep Asia’s flag flying high

The Asian challenge is led by Si Woo Kim, who played the his last four holes without a putter that he broke out of frustration. Kim damaged his putter after slamming into the ground after a frustrating moment on the 15th greenside when he three-putted a hole earlier and hit a poor chip on the next. Yet, he stays in contention at the halfway stage of the Masters.

Putting with a 3-wood over his final four holes Kim shot 3-under 69 in the second round and was 4-under 140, which was three shots behind the leader, Justin Rose (72), who like the first day was aided by a. great run on the back nine. Rose is now 7-under through 36 holes.

Kim’s compatriot and last year’s joint runner-up Sungjae Im (77-80) missed the halfway cut leaving Kim to shoulder Korea’s hopes, as he attempts to become the first Asian to win the Masters title.

Hideki Matsuyama, who holds two top-10s at Augusta National, made an eagle on 13 when he brilliantly holed out from off the green. He had two other birdies on nine and 15 against three bogeys. This is the second straight year he is entering the third round in T6.

Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan, who shared seventh place here last November, added a 71 to his opening 79 to miss the halfway cut which was set at 147.

The live action is brought in India by Hero MotoCorp from just past midnight 12:30 am on Star Select.

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