Golf Buzz

April 11, 2014 - 7:52pm
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Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson missed the cut at the Masters for the first time since 1997.

At least 11 players will head home Friday night from the Masters knowing that just one shot, one stroke of good fortune, would have allowed them to make the cut.

With just the top 50 and ties -- plus any players within 10 strokes of leader Bubba Watson -- playing the weekend, there were a lot of big-name players at 5 over who saw their Masters bubbles burst.

LEADERBOARD: Follow Masters action all day on the social leaderboard | Course stats

That list included Luke Donald, Victor Dubuisson, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson -- and perhaps most surprisingly, Phil Mickelson. The three-time Masters champ hadn't missed a cut at Augusta National since 1997, but was done in by a triple-bogey 6 on the par-3 12th, his second triple in two days.

This year's cut wasn't kind to several former winners. In addition to Mickelson and Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera (2009), Trevor Immelman (2008) and Zach Johnson (2007) all failed to advance, along with Mark O'Meara, Craig Stadler, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw.

Several other pre-tournament favorites had an early end to their Masters. Dustin Johnson couldn't make up for an opening-round 77 and wound up with a 7-over 151. Patrick Reed skied to a second-round 79 and finished at 8-over 152.

PHOTOS FROM THE MASTERS: Friday's second round | Best golf fashion

Keegan Bradley followed a 75 with a 78 for a 9-over 153. Jason Dufner never recovered from his first-round 80 and finished at 10-over 154.

However, there were more than a few green jacket holders still in the 51-man field, including Mike Weir (2003), Vijay Singh (2000), Jose Maria Olazabal (1999), Fred Couples (1992), two-time winner Bernhard Langer (1985, 1993) and Augusta native Larry Mize (1987).

At 54, Couples shot back-to-back 71s to sit tied for seventh, five shots behind Watson.




Phil Mickelson
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The only time Phil Mickelson has missed a cut in the Masters came in 1997.

The only time Phil Mickelson has ever missed the cut in the Masters came in 1997. That same year, Tiger Woods won the tournament by a record 12 shots.

With Woods out this year as he heals from back surgery and Mickelson through 36 holes at 5-over par, we could potentially see the first Masters weekend at Augusta National without two of the game's biggest stars since 1994 when neither of the two played.

RELATED: Masters leaderboard | Big bounce back for Grace | Complete coverage

Mickelson finished his second round right around 3:40 p.m. EDT and was one shot outside the projected cut number of 4 over after a 1-over 73 to go along with Thursday's 4-over 76.

Mickelson's tough week at the Masters shouldn't come as a big surprise if you look at his form of late. It's really a microcosm of his season -- one in which he has yet to finish inside the top 10 through nine starts.

But, bad form or not, Mickelson's 76-73 start is a bit shocking because since that missed cut in 1997, he has racked up an incredible 14 top 10s at Augusta National, including three victories.

In the last two days, Mickelson has had two triple bogeys (No. 7 on Thursday; No. 12 on Friday) and one double bogey (No. 15 on Thursday).

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.


Bubba Watson
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Bubba Watson had a stretch that included five straight birdies in the second round of the Masters on Friday.

They say experience counts for a lot at Augusta National during Masters week.

Based on what 2012 champion Bubba Watson did on Friday, it would be hard to argue otherwise.

Watson, who won earlier this year in the Northern Trust Open (his first victory since that epic, sudden-death playoff win in Augusta two years ago), fired a 4-under 68 in the second round Friday to move to 7 under for the tournament and is the clubhouse leader, four shots ahead of his closest pursuers at the time of this post.

RELATED: Masters leaderboard | Big bounce back for Grace | Complete coverage

It wasn't until the ninth hole on Friday -- his 27th hole of the tournament -- that Watson made his first bogey. He was the only player in the field without a bogey up to that point. 

He made the turn in even-par 36 and shortly after, that's when the fireworks started.

Starting on the difficult par-3 12th hole, Watson rattled off five consecutive birdies. The birdie streak came to an end on the par-4 17th hole, where Watson settled for a two-putt par from 30 feet. He missed about a 5-footer for par at the final hole and settled for bogey and the 68.

Watson's impressive play might end up costing a lot of players a weekend tee time. The cut rule at the Masters has the top 50 players and ties moving on to weekend play, as well as all those within 10 shots of the lead.

The projected cut at the time of this post was 3 over, effectively making the 10-shot rule negligible should things remain the same.

If Watson is able to hold on for the win this Sunday, he would become the 17th player in the 78-year history of the Masters to win the tournament more than once.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.


Branden Grace
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After opening the 78th Masters with a 12-over 84, Branden Grace bounced back with a 3-under 69 on Friday.

South Africa's Branden Grace tied for 18th in his first Masters start a year ago.

Because of that, the 25-year-old, four-time European Tour winner should have had some confidence this week as he made his second Masters appearance.

Whatever confidence there was probably vanished for Grace after a nightmare round of 12-over 84 on Thursday -- the highest score recorded in the first round.

RELATED: Masters leaderboard | Day's ball lands in patron's bag | Complete coverage

What a difference a day makes, though. On Friday, Grace was an entirely different player. He had an amazing 15-shot turnaround, bouncing back from Thursday's 84 with a 3-under 69 in the second round.

At 9 over total, Grace will most likely miss the cut at this Masters, but it doesn't make his one-day turnaround any less remarkable.

On Friday, Grace recorded four birdies and just one bogey compared to Thursday's one birdie, six bogeys, two double bogeys and a triple bogey.

Believe it or not, Grace's 15-shot turnaround isn't the most in Masters history. That distinction belongs to Craig Wood, who was 21 shots better from round one to round two, with scores of 88-67 in 1936.

Wood went on to win the 1941 Masters and U.S. Open. We'll see what the Golf Gods have in store for Grace going forward.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.


Jason Day
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Jason Day retrieves his golf ball from the shopping bag of a Masters patron on Friday.

Jason Day added a souvenir to the shopping bag of a Masters patron who already had a bag full of them during the second round on Friday.

Well, sort of.

You see, Day hit his second shot on the par-5 second hole at Augusta National into the gallery and -- somehow -- his ball came to rest inside a patron's gift bag.

RELATED: Story behind Els' shot from a water hazard | Donald's penalty | Masters leaderboard

Day consulted an official and was given free relief from the patron's bag -- he had to take the ball back to finish the hole -- took a drop and proceeded to get up and down for a birdie.

It reminded us of a similar situation from the third round of the 2013 PGA Championship. It was there at Oak Hill last August where Jonas Blixt found the pants pocket of a spectator with his tee shot on the 18th hole. Like Day this morning, Blixt got a free drop and managed to make a remarkable birdie after the free drop. Here's how Blixt recovered:



Day gave the birdie back and then some with a double bogey on the next hole. At the time of this post, Day was 1 over through nine holes and 4 over for the tournament.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.



Luke Donald
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Luke Donald was assessed a two-shot penalty in Round 1 of the Masters for grounding his club in a hazard.

Former world No. 1 Luke Donald was assessed a two-stroke penalty in the first round of the Masters on Thursday.

The penalty occurred after Donald played his third shot from a greenside bunker on the par-4 ninth hole. Donald left his third shot in the bunker and violated Rule 13-4 by grounding his club in a hazard (the bunker) before playing his fourth shot.

RELATED: Story behind Els' shot from a water hazard | Masters leadeboard | Masters coverage

According to a Yahoo! Sports story, the infraction was brought to the attention of officials by a patron who witnessed the incident.
The report also states: 
According to Augusta National spokesman Steve Ethun, Donald was informed of the penalty after his round but prior to signing his scorecard. (Had he signed an incorrect scorecard, Donald would have been disqualified.) Donald took a first-round score of 79 (+7), a total that included the two-stroke penalty. Donald made a quadruple-bogey 8 on the hole and eventually signed for a 7-over 79.

Here is the full explanation of Rule 13-4 from the USGA's website:

13-4. Ball In Hazard; Prohibited Actions

Except as provided in the Rules, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player must not:

a. Test the condition of the hazard or any similar hazard;

b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club; or

c. Touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard.

After the round, Donald took to Twitter to explain the incident:

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.