US Masters: Justin Rose holds narrow lead as frustrated Rory McIlroy bows out

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth among the big names stacking up behind the leader

 

There is an old adage about those prone to aches and ailments getting wrapped in cotton wool for their own protection. Such self-preservation featured in Justin Rose’s build-up to this 85th edition of the Masters tournament and, so far, that approach would appear to have worked in the Englishman’s quest to add a green jacket to his wardrobe.

In effect, for Rose, the job is half-done. The glass is half-full; or, perhaps, half-empty depending on the view.

For Rory McIlroy it’s most certainly the latter at the moment as he bowed out of his latest attempt at completing the career grand slam with his game looking all at sea. After carding bogeys at the fifth and seventh – where he went from greenside bunker to greenside bunker – a lost ball at the 10th saw him wind up with a double bogey six, his expression looking more frustrated than ever.

Birdies did come McIlroy’s way at the two Par 5s on the back nine – the 13th and the 15th – but in the end it was a round of 74 and a total of six over, meaning another chance at that elusive green jacket slipped away with little fanfare.

But McIlroy was not the only one of the game’s best who will have the weekend off, including the defending champion Dustin Johnson who bogeyed the 17th and 18th to sign for a 75 and a total of five over par, ending a disappointing week prematurely. Joining McIlroy and Johnson with the weekend off were the likes of Sergio Garcia (four over), Brooks Koepka (five over), Lee Westwood (five over), Patrick Cantlay (eight over) and Jason Day (nine over).

At the top of the leaderboard it was a different story. Just over a month since withdrawing from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with back spasms and then missing the Players entirely, Rose first stumbled through the opening holes of his second round before demonstrating surefootedness and resilience to recovery to the point where he successfully added a 72 to his opening 65 for a midway total of seven-under-par 137.

Thing is, the gap that Rose had taken from the first round was substantially reduced. Indeed, a look over his shoulders only confirmed that the chasing posse featured some heavy-hitting gunslingers. How about Jordan Spieth, for one? A week after ending a four-year winless drought in Texas, the 2015 champion moved menacingly into Rose’s rearview mirror at five under. Another? Justin Thomas.

Tony Finau, too, who joined Thomas, Bernd Wiesberger, Si Woo Kim, Cameron Champ and Hideki Matsuyama at four under. “I think we learned a little bit about the golf course and how firm it was. It was a little more gettable, I felt like, this morning and I was able to string together some nice golf. I took care of the Par 5s. That’s important around Augusta National. Stats always show the guys that do that throughout the week usually have a chance to do something pretty good,” said Finau.

The closest of all are two men searching for a first Major win. Will Zalatoris, a player ranked outside the top-2,000 in the world just two years ago, but who has played his way into the top-50 in letting his clubs do all the talking, sensationally closed with three birdies - on 16, 17 and 18 - for a second round 68 to get to 138, just a shot behind Rose.

Alongside him at that mark is Brian Harman who also birdied the 17th and 18th for a second consecutive round of 69.

Rose’s work, heavy-handed at first but more controlled and smooth as the round progressed, enabled him to claim the clubhouse lead with a two-stroke advantage over Spieth and veteran Australian Marc Leishman who will go into the third round at five under.

Conditions in the second round were slightly easier, with the greens slightly more receptive, a gentler wind and some more favourable pin placements. Yet, the challenge mentally remained. Any slip in concentration, any second-guessing on club selection or any hesitation on shot-execution was liable to be penalised.

“I think it was just a classic day at Augusta National when you’re slightly off. You can be a foot or two out on certain occasions and you end up struggling,” admitted Rose.

Where Rose had gone on a remarkable roll in his opening round, sparked by an eagle on the eighth which began a run that saw him finish at nine-under on his final 11 holes of that round, it proved to be a rather different day on the second round where his edginess, even with a 3-wood in hand off the first, was exemplified by a pushed tee-shot into the trees which led to an opening bogey.

Rose, indeed, was in freefall in three-over on his round through seven holes only for him to steady matters. And while joined at the top at one point by Leishman, Rose regained control with birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th holes.

“You can see the leaderboard and who is stacking up behind, and I feel like there’s a lot of firepower there where you can’t ever really hold anyone back to a number . . . you just have to keep hitting the shots. I’m not going to worry about a score. I think it’s hard enough just to keep playing shot by shot rather than even sort of trying to piece scores together day-by-day,” explained Rose of sticking to his own process.

Those in pursuit have adopted a similar philosophy. As Leishman - who started strongly with three successive birdies in eventually posting a 67 to add to his opening 72 for 139 (five under) - said: “I’m a leaderboard watcher. I like to know where I am. I’m always watching to see what the leaders are doing. Some guys do, some guys don’t . . . anything can happen around here; so, no matter where you are on the leaderboard, as long as you’re somewhere near the top, anything can happen, whether you’re leading or five back. You go to that back nine (on Sunday), and it’s game on!”

Game on, indeed!

Collated scores after round two of The Masters (USA unless stated, Par 72)

137 Justin Rose (Eng) 65 72

138 Brian Harman 69 69, Will Zalatoris 70 68

139 Marc Leishman (Aus) 72 67, Jordan Spieth 71 68

140 Cameron Champ 72 68, Tony Finau 74 66, Si Woo Kim (Kor) 71 69, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 69 71, Justin Thomas 73 67, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 74 66

141 Xander Schauffele 72 69

142 Corey Conners (Can) 73 69, Collin Morikawa 73 69, Ryan Palmer 74 68, Cameron Smith (Aus) 74 68

143 Stewart Cink 74 69, Bryson DeChambeau 76 67, Viktor Hovland (Nor) 73 70, Matt Jones (Aus) 74 69

144 Abraham Ancer (Mex) 75 69, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 74 70, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 74 70, Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 72 72, Shane Lowry (Irl) 71 73, Robert MacIntyre (Sco) 74 70, Jon Rahm (Spa) 72 72, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 73 71, Michael Thompson 72 72, Brendon Todd 73 71, Bubba Watson 74 70

145 Harris English 74 71, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 71 74, Martin Laird (Sco) 74 71, Kevin Na 75 70, Patrick Reed 70 75, Scottie Scheffler 73 72, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 74 71, Gary Woodland 73 72

146 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 70 76, Jim Herman 76 70, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 75 71, Jose Maria Olazabal (Spa) 75 71, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 76 70, Webb Simpson 70 76, Matt Wallace (Eng) 74 72

147 Paul Casey (Eng) 73 74, Billy Horschel 76 71, Jason Kokrak 71 76, Phil Mickelson 75 72, Francesco Molinari (Ita) 74 73, Sebastian Munoz (Col) 74 73, Ian Poulter (Eng) 74 73, Adam Scott (Aus) 74 73

The following players did not make the cut:

148 Daniel Berger 75 73, Sergio Garcia (Spa) 76 72, Max Homa 74 74, Matt Kuchar 78 70, Jimmy Walker 75 73

149 Lanto Griffin 76 73, Dustin Johnson 74 75, Kevin Kisner 72 77, Brooks Koepka 74 75, Mike Weir (Can) 78 71, Lee Westwood (Eng) 78 71, Danny Willett (Eng) 76 73

150 Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 76 74, Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 76 74, Chengtsung Pan (Tai) 79 71, Robert Streb 75 75

151 Zach Johnson 77 74, Bernhard Langer (Ger) 74 77, Victor Perez (Fra) 78 73

152 Patrick Cantlay 79 73, Brian Gay 78 74, Charles Osborne 76 76

153 Jason Day (Aus) 77 76, Carlos Ortiz (Mex) 82 71, Ian Woosnam (Wal) 76 77

154 Joe Long (Eng) 82 72

156 Sandy Lyle (Sco) 81 75, Hudson Swafford 73 83

157 Fred Couples 79 78, Sung Jae Im (Kor) 77 80

159 Vijay Singh (Fij) 79 80

161 Ty Strafaci 80 81

163 Larry Mize 84 79

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