Day grabs Masters lead; teen survives the cut
AUGUSTA, Ga. - As the sun approached the western horizon Friday, Jason Day tapped in for par on the 18th hole to cap a grueling day that lasted almost six hours from the first tee to the finish but ended for him with a 1-stroke lead entering Masters weekend.
"I'm just very tired," a weary Day said. "This round today was very difficult. It was a big grind out there."
Still the 25-year-old Day, seeking to become the first Australian to win a green jacket, shot the best second round, a 4-under-par 68, for a 6-under 138 at the halfway point that gave him the narrow advantage over 53-year-old Fred Couples and Marc Leishman.
Tiger Woods was tied for first at 5-under par at the turn but went without a single birdie on the back nine, and dropped 2 strokes with bogeys at 15 and 18. His 71 left him in a seven-way tie at 141.
Gusty winds that swirled amid the pines of the Augusta National Golf Club slowed play down to a crawl. Players backed off numerous shots after feeling the wind, often throwing grass in the air and changing clubs.
Fourteen-year-old Guan Tianlang, the youngest contestant in Masters history, had a penalty stroke assessed against him on the 17th hole after officials timed him twice and found him exceeding the 40-second maximum to hit a shot.
For hours, it appeared the penalty would cost Guan, who had a 75 for a 148 total, a chance to play the final two rounds. It wasn't until Day missed a 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th that the eighth-grader from China was assured of making the cut, coming in under the 10-shot rule.
Day admitted, "I played pretty slow out there," but said the wind, and the groups in front of him, made it difficult to play faster.
"When it means everything to you, you're going to try and do the best you can to play well," he said. "Whether that makes you discuss 10 seconds more or 20 seconds more on a shot, you're going to do it. No one is really going to think about how slow you played if you win the tournament."
Couples, who seems to find the fountain of youth whenever he competes here, shot 71 and shared second at 139 with Leishman (73), the opening round coleader. Jim Furyk tied with Brandt Snedeker and 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera at 140.
Day, 25, who had a great chance to win here in 2011 before Charl Schwartzel overtook everyone with birdies on the final four holes, stayed focused in the windy conditions. He rebounded from a bogey at the famous par-3 12th, where he dunked his tee shot into Rae's Creek, with birdies at 13 and 16.
"I know there's a lot of good players behind me that are going to play well," Day said. "I just have to stay patient and focus on what I'm doing, and really not worry about anyone else. I think if I can go out there and commit to my game plan ... hopefully I can be there come Sunday."
The good players include Couples, who said his often-cranky back feels fine, and Leishman, who is trying to claim the "first Australian to win a Masters" crown himself. The top 12 finds three major champions and several others who have come so close.
Woods, seeking Masters win No. 5, and first since 2005, 1-putted three times for pars on 10, 12, and 14. But he got a bad break at the par-5 15th when his approach shot hit the flagstick squarely and ricocheted into the pond that guards the green. He 3-putted No. 18 for another bogey.
"I feel like I played really well today," Woods said. "My round should have been in the 60s. The wind was swirling all over the place. My score doesn't quite indicate how well I played."