AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 572 points Friday, but that was nothing compared to the carnage at Augusta National Golf Club, where Masters first-round leader Jordan Spieth dropped three shots in two holes and tumbled down the leaderboard.
In his place, 10 players took a turn at the top. By the end of a volatile day, Patrick Reed fought off his poor record in four previous starts and windy conditions to shoot 6-under 66 for a 9-under 135 total. Just as Spieth had done a day earlier, Reed held a two-shot lead. Marc Leishman (67) was at 7-under 137, followed by Henrik Stenson (70) at 5-under 139. Spieth steadied himself to shoot 2-over 74 and share fourth place with Rory McIlroy (71) at 4-under 140 (scores).
A romp by Spieth, a popular prediction for the 2015 Masters champion, did not develop as Reed made nine birdies, all in three-hole bursts – Nos. 1-3, 7-9 and 13-15 – and including all four par 5s.
“To be able to go out and capitalize on those par 5s and to make a lot of birdies there, it kind of allows you to be really aggressive when you feel like you're really comfortable with a shot,” Reed said. “The par 5s are huge around here.”
Reed has won five times on the PGA Tour but is 0-for-16 in major championships, with a T-22 in the 2015 Masters as his best finish here. In addition to Stenson, Spieth and McIlroy, five other major champions are among the top 13 on the leaderboard.
“Everyone wants to win, and if you don't believe you can win them, then you probably shouldn't be playing in them,” Reed said of golf’s top prizes. “I believe that if I play the golf that I know how to play, that I can win majors. And just one of those things that I have to go in and not get ahead of myself and go into tomorrow and just take it shot by shot, hole by hole, like I've been doing.”
Wind and rain are forecast for today’s third round, which will force the competitors to adjust to a different Augusta National (pairings).
Near the top of the leaderboard, only Spieth and Bubba Watson, the Masters champion in 2012 and 2014, have won at Augusta National. Major champions Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, who are tied for sixth at 3-under 141 and ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the world, are waging a separate fight for the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Reed’s first 12 rounds at the Masters included zero scores in the 60s. During the last two rounds, he has shot 69-66. Can he continue the run?
“I'm just going to go ahead and do the same thing I've been doing,” said Reed, 27, who helped his hometown Augusta State team win back-to-back NCAA championships in 2010 and 2011. “My game plan has gotten me to this point, and I have 36 more holes to stick to my game plan. And the biggest thing is to execute and stay patient out there. Give myself opportunities to make birdies and try to roll in some putts.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli