Making the cut and Augusta roars
Day five at the Masters and the day on which the cut is made, which this year, according to the tournament officials, will result in the top 50 players and ties qualifying for the weekend, as opposed to the top 44, which has been the rule until now. Also, any player within 10 shots of the leader after two rounds, can play the weekend.
Before any thoughts of the cut, though, I was able to enjoy a rather interesting Thursday evening dinner in the town of Augusta, with a couple of like-minded guys. Most high-profile among our group was Sean Foley, the coach of Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose, who I had met on a trip to the States a couple of years ago.
The rest of the guys were a couple of experienced golf fitness instructors, including the guy who works with Sean and Tiger, Craig Davies and Simon Webb, who trains KJ Choi and first-round leader, Marc Leishman. So, it was an interesting evening. No, Sean did not talk a lot about Tiger, but he did say that Tiger is in a good space, and looking at him leading the Masters towards the end of the second round, as I write this, that’s no surprise.
What was more interesting was hearing that Sean thought that George has serious potential and all the tools to win big tournaments. That was great to hear. It was also good to get the thoughts of Simon, who said that Leishman wouldn’t be fazed by leading the Masters and would be quite relaxed. Otherwise, the other thing to come out of the evening was just how competitive the golf fitness space has become on tour. All the players are working hard. Tiger has always set the mark, and even though he is still the guy to beat in that respect, just about all the guys are prioritising their fitness and health on tour.
Looking at George’s second round, we were at the course early, as he had an early tee time. George looked even more relaxed than he was on day one, and got off to a good start. He had a few unlucky bounces and also got the worst of the conditions, as the rain came down quite heavily in the middle of his front nine. As a result, I think a couple of his shots bounced off the wet surface and perhaps didn’t do him justice. Also, the rain changed the pace of the greens quite a bit.
That being said, George didn’t play his best on seven, eight and nine, making bogeys there. But, as with round one, he came back strong with birdies on 15 and 17. That showed some strength of character, because at +7 he was definitely missing the cut. Instead, he closed on +5 and as I write this, he’s one shot inside the cut line and I’m just holding thumbs that the leaders don’t get away. George’s round ended with him hitting an incredible left-handed shot from under a tree on the 18th, with the back of his two-iron! He then made a brilliant up-and-down to end his day on a good note. He’s disappointed with how he played on the front nine, but here’s hoping he’s around for the weekend.
Didn’t notice too much different with Augusta on day two of the tournament, but there were a couple of things. Firstly, I was exposed to a few more Augusta ‘roars’, which are the legendary roars you hear when a player produces a moment of brilliance. That was all the more surprising, considering the fact that the course was set up so much more difficult than on day one. I heard Phil Mickelson saying to the press that conditions were pretty friendly on day one, and I think the ‘men in green jackets’ heard him and decided to set the course up much tougher.
Quite enjoyed seeing the number of interviews conducted under the ‘Big Oak Tree’ in front of the clubhouse, where the likes of CBS and the Golf Channel have set up. It’s a bit of a Masters tradition, with players making themselves available for interviews in a bit more of an informal setting.
I’ve been surprised at how many South Africans I’ve come across over here. Bumped into Dave Usendorff, who’s here with a group of mates from Copperleaf. I’ve seen a fair amount of them, due to George and Trevor Immelman playing together in the first two rounds, and Ernie playing just behind them. Funnily enough, whenever an American has asked me where I’m from, and I’ve responded, I’ve received a favourable response. These Yanks seem to quite like us okes from South Africa!
Next up – Masters round three: Moving Day!