Justin Rose probably should have stayed in bed. Thein the same place he began – atop the leaderboard – only to discover the objects in his mirror were suddenly much closer than they appeared. “For sure,” Rose said, “I didn’t quite appreciate the scoring was going to be so good today.”
For everyone else, maybe.
Rose followed his opening-round 65 with an even-par 72 that let his rivals squeeze most of the air out of a four-shot cushion. On Thursday, he was one of only three golfers to post around in the 60s. Overcast skies Friday made the greens more receptive, and by day’s end, there were more cards turned in with 60-something on them – 18 in all – than you’d see at the VFW hall on Bingo Night.
“For as tough as thishas been playing,” said Justin Thomas, who shot 67, “I felt like it was as easy as it could have been … a lot of my birdies have been pretty low stress or pretty easy.”
For all that, Rose’s 137 total at the midway point of the tournament was still good enough for a one-shot lead over Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman. Zalatoris, plugging away on thethis time last year, birdied the final three holes for 68. He called his approach into the 18th his most satisfying swing of the round, “knowing that it would get me into the final group.”
Harman, a left-hander who didn’t think he’d qualify as recently as, birdied the last two for 69.
“Whenever you look upon the leaderboard and see your name up there pretty high at Augusta,not to get nervous,” Harman said. “I was nervous. But settling down with a good birdie on 2 was nice, and I struck it well all day today.” He wasn’t the only one. Lurking another shot back at 139 were 2015 winners Jordan Spieth (68) and (67). That, in turn, was one better than a six-pack of golfers at 140, including Thomas, Tony Finau (66), and most improbably perhaps, Si Woo Kim (69). Kim’s chip for birdie from just behind the green at No. 15 had too much steam and zoomed past the before nestling into the fringe on the front. His reaction was steamier still. Kim slammed the head of his putter into the turf and snapped it off.
“Did you ever do that before?” a reporter asked afterward.
“Not on the course,” Kim replied to laughter.
He finished that hole and the next three-putting with his fairway metal, which prompted another abrupt exchange. “Si Woo, do you have another putter?”
“No, I don’t want to answer anymore,” he replied. “Sorry.”
While Rose made no apologies, he had plenty of regrets. He bogeyed No. 1, had a 67-foot birdie try at the par-3 sixth, failed to climb a slope near the pin anddown to his feet for a second bogey, added a third at No. 7, and was stuck at four under, walking off the 12th.
But Rose regrouped and birdied Nos. 13, 14, and 16 to get top players – struggle to string together great back-to-back matches at Augusta. “It’s hard. We haven’t quite figured out that dynamic. Otherwise,” he smiled ruefully, “we’d do a better job than the second day.”. It might not have seemed much of an accomplishment compared to all those 60s. On the other hand, defending champion Dustin Johnson, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, and Patrick Cantlay headed for the the cut line at 147. After his round, Rose was asked why so many first-round leaders – even the
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