There are several interesting plot lines to follow in the second round of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National. One must look no further than the top of the leaderboard for the most intriguing.
Bill Haas leads the Masters after day one, and it is the first time he has ever had the lead after any round in any major tournament. He shot 68 and leads by one stroke over Adam Scott, Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen. It will take a monumental effort, both mentally and physically, for him to be in the lead again at the end of play on Friday. The thing to watch for is how Haas reacts to being the overnight leader. Not only will there be pressure in being the leader, but there is pressure from the players immediately behind him who have all won major tournaments.
Haas built his lead on Thursday by making putt after putt from distances between 10 and 25 feet. Those putts are not going to go in every day, especially at the Masters Tournament, and that is why he needs to play better on Friday than he did on Thursday. He needs to hit his shots closer and have shorter putts for pars and birdies in order to survive the charge. In contrast, both Scott and Watson had clean rounds. Watson hit almost every green and had two-putts for his pars. Scott had only one blemish on his scorecard when he hit into the water on 12 and took double bogey.
Finally, Friday will be different for Bill Haas with respect to tee time. He teed off early on Thursday, but will now have to wait around until 1:15 in the afternoon to begin his second round. He’ll have several hours to think about his lead and watch the other players in the Masters Tournament move up and challenge him before he even takes his first swing.
Another story line that will unfold is the possibility of Phil Mickelson missing the cut. Mickelson had a triple bogey and a double bogey on his way to 76 in the first round on Thursday, and if anyone thinks that is an aberration, consider the fact that it was his third 76 in his last four rounds at Augusta National. He is tied for 67 among 97 golfers, with the low 50 and ties moving on to the final two rounds. In 22 tries at the Masters Mickelson has missed the cut only once, in 1977.
Fred Couples won the Masters Tournament in 1992, and seemingly every year since then he has shown his love for Augusta National by somehow getting himself high up onto the leader-board and delighting his legion of fans. Even though he falls short of another green jacket, it does not take anything away from the pleasure golf fans everywhere get from watching him try. As long as Freddie plays, and contends, there will always be something enjoyable to cheer for at the Masters. Couples is 54 years old, and three strokes back after a 71 on Thursday, and was not the only senior player to have a good day. 50-year old Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain matched Couples’ 71, and 56-year old Bernhard Langer from Germany shot even par 72.
There are story lines already written in to the second round of the 2014 Masters Tournament. Will Bill Haas stand up to the pressure? Will Mickelson play well enough to be there on the weekend? Will one of the graybeards threaten the first page of the leaderboard? The only certainty on Friday is that even more story lines will begin to unfold as fast as the first player on the first hole can put his tee in the ground at Augusta National.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky