Day Soars into Lead at Masters


Jason Day fired Friday's best round, a 4-under 68, to take the 36-hole lead in the Masters Tournament. The first major of the year began Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

Day, a 25-year-old Australian who finished tied for second in the 2011 Masters two strokes behind winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, carded six birdies and a pair of bogeys to reach 6-under 138, one stroke ahead of 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples (71) and first-round co-leader Marc Leishman, also of Australia.

Leishman who shared 18-hole lead with Sergio Garcia after opening with a 66, carded a 1-over 73. Garcia went 10 strokes higher in the second round with a 76 to drop into a tie for 14th at 142.

"It was a good day," Leishman said to a TV reporter. "I grinded it out pretty well . . . Hopefully, we can do the same thing the next couple of days."

If Couples can somehow win his second green jacket, he will be 53 years, six months, and 11 days old on Sunday. A victory this week would not only make him the oldest Masters champion in history but the oldest winner in PGA Tour history. Sam Snead was 52 years, 10 months and eight days when he won the Greater Greensboro Open in 1965.

"I would like to, you know, have another run," Couples told PGATour.com. He was tied for the 36-hole lead in the Masters last year but shot a 75 on Saturday to drop from contention, ending up in 12th. "As I said last year, both Jason (Dufner) and I, we struggled right off the bat and we really were a non-factor on Saturday and that was not really much fun," he added.

"Hopefully, tomorrow will be a little different and I will play well and have a shot at Sunday. I mean, that's my goal. But it is hard. I'm not going to kid you. I mean, it's a hard course. I'm really tired."

Tied for fourth at 4-under 140 are 2009 Masters winner Angel Cabrera (69) of Argentina, Jim Furyk (71) and Brandt Snedeker (70). Aussie Adam Scott (72), Dufner (69), South Korea's K.J. Choi (71), Tiger Woods (71), and England's David Lynn (73), Lee Westwood (71) and Justin Rose (71) share seventh at 141.

Woods, a four-time Masters winner, had a fine front nine, carding three birdies to make the turn in 3-under 33. After opening with five straight pars on the home half, the 37-year-old was victimized by some bad luck as he hit his third shot from 87 yards out on the par-5 15th hole. The ball solidly struck the pin and caromed backwards into the pond fronting the green.

After taking a penalty stroke and a drop near his previous shot, Woods hit to three feet and made the putt for a bogey to fall out of the lead. Another bogey on the 18th resulted in his 71.

"I felt like it was a pretty good shot," he told a TV reporter. As for his reaction, Woods said on-air, "I was pissed . . . thought I was looking at a birdie but then maybe two more shots. Six was my goal."

Despite those back-nine stumbles, Woods, who opened with a 70, was pleased with his performance. "I played well . . . (my round) should have been in the 60s. My score doesn't indicate how well I played today."

After opening with a 72, Rory McIlroy moved up into a tie for 14th with a 70. He's at 142 with Spaniards Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (74) and Garcia, 55-year-old German Bernhard Langer (71) - a two-time Masters winner who, like Couples, could make history with a victory this week, Schwartzel (71) and Aussie John Senden (70).

If Day, Leishman, Scott or Senden can pull off a win this year, they will become the first Aussie to ever don a green jacket.

Dustin Johnson, who opened with a 67 and was a stroke out of the lead starting Friday, reached the top of the leaderboard at 7-under after a birdie on the par-5 13th. But the South Carolinian stumbled badly down the stretch, carding two bogeys and a pair of doubles for a 76 to fall into a tie for 20th at 143 with six others.

Rickie Fowler was also sailing along in good shape. Sitting at 3-under before starting the par-3 16th, the 24-year-old dumped his tee shot into the water, leading to a triple-bogey six and a 76 and dropping to even-par 144.

After two bogeys on his first three holes, McIlroy needed a boost and he got it with an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 23-year-old Northern Irishman added three birdies and a bogey on the back nine for his 2-under outing.

"The eighth hole really got me going, really kick-started me," McIlroy told PGATour.com. "Then I started to hit some really good, quality shots. I took advantage of a couple of easier holes on the back nine."

After requiring 32 putts Thursday, he took seven strokes less on the short grass in the second round. "The improvement in the putting from last night to today has been a big thing," he told PGATour.com. "I'm committing to my lines a lot better.

"I think what pleased me today was just not letting it get away from me. Two-over through three holes and having par putts on the next four from outside six feet and being able to turn in even-par was something I was very proud of today. I stayed patient out there when I needed to. It was a good day."

The cut was set at 4-over 148. Qualifying for the weekend are former Masters champions Trevor Immelman (75 - 143), Sandy Lyle (72 - 145), Zach Johnson (76 - 145), Vijay Singh (74 - 146), Jose Maria Olazabal (72 - 146) and Phil Mickelson (76 - 147). Defending champion Bubba Watson carded a 73 to make the cut right on the number.

Though he had a disappointing second round, Mickelson, a three-time winner at Augusta National, has high hopes for the weekend. "You're never out of this tournament," Mickelson told PGATour.com. "You just never know what's going to happen.

"I've got a little bit of work to do, it doesn't feel far off. My putter is very close. I've hit a lot of good putts that have not gone in that have come very close the first two days. If I can get a couple to fall and hit a few more good shots, I think that I have something in the mid-60s, which I will need tomorrow to get back in it."

Also making it to the weekend is 14-year-old Tianlang Guan. Despite a 75, the teenage amateur from China became the youngest player ever to make the cut in the Masters. He's also guaranteed to be the tournament's low amateur as the other four in the field didn't make the cut.

Tianlang could have posted a 74 but was assessed a one-stroke penalty on the 17th hole for a slow-play infraction - exceeding the 40-second time limit to hit a shot.

He was warned on the 13th hole to pick up the pace but, because of the day's shifting winds, couldn't pull the trigger fast enough on a few shots. He took the bad news like a man. "Today is pretty hard because if you're timed only 40 seconds, it's pretty hard because you need to make the decision. The wind switched a lot. But that's for everybody," he told reporters.

Snedeker and other players sympathized with the youngster. "I wish they would have made an example of someone other than a 14-year-old kid," Snedeker told reporters. "They could have given a penalty to any one of us out there today."

Those missing out on the last two rounds include former Masters champions Larry Mize, Mark O'Meara, Mike Weir, Tom Watson, Craig Stadler, Ian Woosnam and Ben Crenshaw.

Other major champions heading home include Y.E. Yang, Webb Simpson, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Ben Curtis and Padraig Harrington.

For all the scores, visit http://www.majorschampionships.com/masters/leaderboard.html.


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