Spieth struggled from start to finish to end with a disappointing round of two over par 74 that saw him drop for first to fourth on the leaderboard.
Right behind? Five major champions, for starters. He limped home with bogeys on two of the final three holes. Spieth had a commanding lead at the turn in 2016 before stumbling on Nos. He finished tied for 22nd.
Ditto for Woods, except that he has some catching up to do.
Still, this is Augusta National, where there are birdies available on the back nine. He was under par one only one hole. He really came undone when his second shot to the fifth bounded over the green and into a grove of magnolia trees. The Australian carded a very impressive 67 for the day, taking is overall score to -7, meaning it's only Reed who sits above him in the leaderboard. The biggest problem will be the wind, with gusts expected up to 20 miles per hour. Every second shot, he found himself in the botany, or in sand. "His record is spectacular around here". Even after starting his day off with the dreaded two-way miss and shooting a 40 on the front nine, Spieth stayed patient and never lost belief. He was in the large group at 69, the solid start McIlroy needed, especially with how Spieth was going.
Bryan is a 28-year-old Augusta resident and former trick-shot artist who made his Masters debut a year after his first tour victory at the RBC Heritage in SC. "But this is my best start in a few years. (No.) 13 is such an incredible hole, and it nearly doesn't matter how short it plays because of the trees through the fairway on the right". "It can make you look stupid".
The best comeback? That might now belong to Finau.
But Woods had no problems negotiating the 17th and 18th as he twice shaved the hole with birdie putts to secure his place in the final two rounds with a shot to spare. "When you start to go for pins and you start chasing it", McIlroy said, "that's when you can bring in some trouble and make mistakes". "Quite honestly, it was a pretty cool moment followed by probably one of my most embarrassing moments and a scary moment at the same time".
"I had 210 to the hole with a left-to-right wind, and a tree was right in my line", he said.
With firmer greens, tougher pin placements and just enough wind to make approach shots more challenging, it could be hard for anyone to make a run up the leaderboard.
SERGIO'S DEBACLE: For the second straight year, it looks like the defending champion will have nothing to do this weekend except hand out the green jacket to someone else. The margin for error was razor-thin - any shot that doesn't carry the front edge rolls back into the creek, and a ball racing over the green leaves a tricky up-and-down - but his shot was flawless. Ben Hogan and Sam Snead were both playing in their 10th Masters when they finally won, and Arnold Palmer won his first at the age of 28 - the same age McIlroy is now. He didn't make a birdie until the 13th hole and had to settle for a 3-over 75, leaving him 13 shots behind. Rickie Fowler. All members of the 20-something club. You can witness it by the way he worked his head off to get back in playing shape - making stunning progress and convincing the world he was among the favorites to win the Masters this week. He was tied for 29th.
The audacious 191m approach shot Leishman played to the green of the tricky par five 15th, where he made a double-bogey the day before, set up his second eagle in 288 holes at the Masters. "Forget playing at the [PGA] Tour level".
But the majors were not canceled when he was out with his back surgeries, tournament purses were not slashed.
Ridley strongly hinted at pending changes by saying: "Our observation of these great players hitting middle and even short irons into that hole is not a momentous decision".
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