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Justin Rose clings to Masters lead on day of surprises

Justin Rose leads after second round of 2021 Masters
England's Justin Rose acknowledges the applause after holing out Friday at No. 18 and retaining the lead after 36 holes of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Englishman salvages 1-stroke edge while Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman share 2nd place as some of golf’s biggest stars head home

Friday at the Masters Tournament is always good for one thing: surprises.

This edition of the tournament, which had been rechristened “The Justin Rose Show” in the opening round, was no exception. So, believe it or not, but …

Your fearless Masters leader, Rose, put up four bogeys during a front-nine 39 but recovered his magic on the back, rallying to shoot even par at Augusta National and retain the lead (scores). His four-shot advantage was reduced to one, however, over Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman. Yes, you read that right: Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman. Did you forget about the Friday surprise theme already?

Dustin Johnson, the defending Masters champion and the No. 1-ranked player in the world, missed the cut with rounds of 74-75 (and probably hurt your chances in the Masters pool you shouldn’t have entered). He had 64 putts over two rounds. Only four players in the field had more.

“The three-putts killed me,” Johnson said. “Six three-putts in two rounds; you just can’t to that. Take all the three-putts away, I’m 1 under. That was the difference.”

Related: Morning Read's complete 2021 Masters coverage

Rory McIlroy shanked a hosel rocket from a downhill lie in the 10th fairway into a thick grove of foliage right of the green and out of play. He played a provisional, didn’t find the foozled ball (that’s what real old-timers sometimes dubbed a shank) and made a double bogey. McIlroy finished 6 over par and missed the cut.

A frustrated Si Woo Kim slammed his putter so hard on the ground near the 15th green that he damaged the club and had to putt with his 3-wood on the final three holes, probably becoming the first player to par the par-3 16th hole with this club selection: 9-iron, 3-wood, 3-wood. Despite that gaffe, the South Korean shot 69 and was tied for sixth. Asked by media members whether he had another putter to use, Kim said, “No more questions.”

Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, 55, broke par at Augusta National for the first time in six years with a 1-under 71 and made the cut for the first time in seven years. In Spanish: Sorprendido! In English: Surprise! In Southern: Yassuh!

Big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau played like Captain Aerosol in the opening round, spraying his mighty driver in every direction but toward the fairway en route to a disheartening 76. Friday, he birdied four of the last six holes for 67 and moved into semi-almost-sorta contention. “I don’t think you can ever figure this place out,” DeChambeau said. Later, he added, curiously, “It’s just not realistic to have success all the time. That’s what is so great about this golf course.” OK, then.

The left-handed Harman, a University of Georgia alumnus, shot 69 to move into a share of second place, but he doesn’t fit the profile of the presumed Masters winner. He’s 5 feet 7 inches, 150 pounds and ranks 143rd in driving distance. He’s not in the top 100 in greens hit in regulation, either, but he ranks 22nd on the PGA Tour in scoring. He gets the ball in the hole. Harman said Friday that the player whom he looked up to the most was Anthony Kim, a former Ryder Cupper who slid out of golf after several injuries, and his favorite Masters moment was seeing Phil Mickelson win for the first time, in 2004.

“I watched him play every hole that day,” said Harman, who grew up in Savannah. “He gave himself a chance on the last hole, wins, and almost jumps in there after he made that putt.”

Rose held on to his lead with a little bit of match-play strategy. Through seven holes, he was 3 over par. “I scratched a line on my scorecard and told myself I was 3 down and could I go ahead and beat the golf course from that point on,” said Rose, 40, an Englishman who won the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion. “I had a putt to win my match, 1 up, on 18, but it slipped by. It was an honorable draw.”

Apparently, The Empire blinked. Augusta National Golf Club was set up brutally difficult for the opening round, with firm and fast greens, difficult pin positions and slow, watered fairways. Overnight, the greens miraculously got watered, became more receptive, turned greener and started yielding birdies. “They threw some water on the golf course today,” said Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion who shot 68 and was tied for fourth. “There was actually some green grass on No. 9 green today, and there wasn’t yesterday.”

The field averaged 74.5 strokes Thursday. Friday, the average was right around 72, a solid 2½ shots easier. “It was a lot different than yesterday,” said Tony Finau, who moved into a tie for sixth with a 66. “I made double on 3 yesterday, and it was an uphill battle all day. I just tried to survive. Today, I made eagle on 2 and had good vibes going early. The course was a little more gettable his morning.”

The Zalatoris guy you probably haven’t heard of is legit. He’s lean, but he is 6 feet 2 inches tall and hits the ball a ton. He was born in San Francisco, played college golf at Wake Forest and advanced through the Korn Ferry Tour to the PGA Tour with a long stretch of strong play. The surprising thing he did Friday in his first Masters, besides tack a 68 onto his opening 70, was smash a drive so long at the 18th hole that he hit a 50-degree wedge onto the green. A wedge at 18? Yes. And he hit it close and made the putt to earn a spot in Saturday’s final twosome with Rose (tee times). Also, he said he one-putted every green on the back nine.

“There’s no reason to feel intimidated now,” Zalatoris said. “I’ve wanted to be here my entire life. It’s a childhood dream to be in the final group of a major on a weekend, especially here.”

It was a surprise that Brooks Koepka was able to play in this Masters after a recent surgical procedure to his right knee that had him walking carefully and being unable to squat down to line up putts. Koepka finished at 5 over par. Asked how disappointed he was to miss the cut, Koepka replied, “How disappointed do you think I am? I worked my ass off just to get here, and then to play like this is pretty disappointing.”

The Masters has 36 holes to go. There will be more great shots and more disappointing moments this weekend. If not, that will be a major surprise.

Morning Read's Full Coverage from Day 2 at 2021 Masters:
Rose leads after day of surprises, by Gary Van Sickle
Will Zalatoris surges into final pairing, by Steve Harmon
Jordan Spieth likes his chances after 36 holes, by Alex Miceli
Podcast: Hawk and Purk sort through a wild day at Augusta
Round 2 in Pictures
Round 3 Tee Times

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