April 09, 2012
Westwood protects lead, but has company at Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Rory. Sergio. A guy named Freddie. If Lee Westwood was starting to feel a little overlooked at the top of the leaderboard Friday, it was easy to understand.
In search of his first major victory, Westwood picked his way through the blustery second round of the Masters at even–par through 14 holes and was heading into the homestretch with a share of the lead at 5–under par, along with Jason Dufner.
But they had a cadre of champions and other stars closing in — including Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and 52–year–old Fred Couples, contending at Augusta (News - Alert) National on the 20th anniversary of his crowd–pleasing win.
Those three shot 3–under 33 on the front to move to 3 under for the tournament, two out of the lead. The trio was one shot behind Peter Hanson and Louis Oosthuizen, who overcame a double bogey on No. 2 to shoot even–par 72.
As the sun came out and Tiger Woods took to the course, it was setting up as a very interesting Friday afternoon at Augusta National.
The fun, as it so often has over the years, starts with Couples, who ambles comfortably around his favorite golf course every year, and got on a roll this time by spinning a shot from a fairway bunker to eight feet on the par–4 third hole and making the put for the first of his five birdies.
McIlroy, who handled his final–round meltdown at Augusta with class last year, is trying to get in contention again. He made three birdies on the front side to move into a tie for fifth.
Garcia, who has finished in the top 12 in his last three majors as he seeks his first, is playing with an infected middle finger on his left hand but striking the ball well.
Westwood, meanwhile, is maintaining his lead. He made pars on the first 10 holes, lost a shot on No. 11 but made it up with a birdie on No. 12. He caught a big break on No. 13, when his ball barely cleared Rae's Creek and held up on the closely mowed slope that runs back into the water. But he chipped his third shot over the green and had to settle for par on the hole playing third–easiest so far this week.
Ben Crane was also at 3 under, along with Francesco Molinari, who had an afternoon tee time.
Woods also had an afternoon tee time and opened with a birdie to move to 1 under. It was a much better start than he had Thursday.
Woods knocked his first two tee shots deep into the trees and scrambled for pars there. He was errant on his last two tee shots, as well, and finished bogey–bogey, then headed to the driving range to work out the problems.
Fresh off a win in Orlando two weeks ago, Woods was a favorite to take his first major since 2008, but he wasn't looking quite as solid after his even–par opening round that could have been much worse.
Phil Mickelson also struggled in the opening round and was hanging around early in the second. He made two birdies over his first 10 holes to reach 1 over, tied for 33rd with more than half the players on the course. .