Here we go...
Steve DiMeglio in the USA Today:
Mother Nature's chilly, blustery side slapped golfers around Friday morning in the second round of the Masters. Father Time took its toll later in the day on the elder set who defied age a day earlier.
And while Tiger Woods placed himself in perfect striking distance with another solid round in his return to golf and the public stage, it was Old Blighty that took over the top of the leaderboard in the first major championship of the season.
Lawrence Donegan, writing for The Guardian:
England expected and Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter obliged, planting the flag of St George at the top of the leaderboard at the midway point of a Masters that threatens to be one for the ages.
AP's Doug Ferguson writes:
Tiger Woods still has his game. Now he finds out if his name high on the leaderboard at a major is still as intimidating.
In a Masters that gets more compelling by the day, two faces of England's golf revival -- Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter -- handled a tougher Augusta National on Friday to share the lead as both chase their first major championship.
Larry Dorman in the New York Times:
The tough old golf course behind the gates at the Augusta National Golf Club awoke in a bad mood Friday. The gloves came off, the scores went up and things got serious at the Masters.
Kevin Garside in the Telegraph:
It is all on the golf now. The past is your last shot. Tiger Woods erased from our files any lingering memories of blonde consumption. America wants to know only if Woods can meet the English challenge at the top of the leaderboard not the cocktail waitress next door.
PGATour.com via Yahoo offers a nice summary of their various stories and other information of interest.
GolfDigest.com's Birdies and Bogeys, as compiled by E. Michael Johnson and Sam Weinman, includes notes on the pace of play, the club's influence with the FAA and the last time you'll read about Jim Furyk this week.
Golfweek's astute collection of observations includes this eye-opener about the amazing performance of Matteo Manassero.
13. NOT THE FIRST ‘SWEET SIXTEEN’ HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: Italy’s Matteo Manassero, 16, shot a second-round 76 to become the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters, and the first amateur since 1999 to play the weekend.
Previously, the youngest player to make the cut was South African Bobby Cole, who was about a month shy of his 19th birthday when he made it in 1967.
Make no mistake, Poulter and Westwood may be very rich young men, but they are both pure working class. They have put in thousands of days of labour to get where they are. Where they are is now is at the top of the Masters leaderboard tied together on eight under par.
Back at the start of the year Poulter's hands were a map of calluses from all the balls he had been hitting. Westwood has ground out the hours in the gym. On Tuesday morning they played a money match together which ended with Poulter waving the white towel. Now it's for real.
John Huggan on how you can tell Westwood and Poulter apart.
Where Westwood took the more conventional route to professional golf through representation of his country at amateur level and the winning of the British Youths title, Poulter was famously a 4-handicapper when he joined the paid ranks. Firstly an assistant pro at the Leighton Buzzard club in Bedfordshire north of London, he "sold Mars Bars" before making it as a player. A decade ago, as Westwood was being crowned No. 1 in Europe, Poulter was rookie of the year on something called the Hippo Tour.
What else? Oh yes. Poulter is the one in the funny trousers.
Derek Lawrenson writes for the Daily Mail:
On Tuesday, the pair had played a practice round together and it was Westwood who took the money. Now, following two stupendous days of competition, each will seek to gain an advantage over the other heading into the final round in the quest for a certain jacket all golfers regard as priceless.
Naturally, it is a long way from being a two-man duel. Neither will be even favourite to win. Westwood and Poulter are both on eight under after rounds of 69 and 68 respectively, but lurking two shots behind happens to be the world No 1, Tiger Woods.
Steve Elling on Westwood's weak Masters record prior to this week:
In his 10 previous Masters appearances spanning 34 rounds, Westwood had twice shot in the 60s. This week, he's thrown up 67-69 in successive rounds.
Pretty fair change of habit for a guy who, a few years back, marched off the course complaining that he had fallen out of love with Augusta. He was just hot under his heavily logoed collar, he said this week.
"There should be a cooling-off period," he said.
Poulter came to Augusta as one of the favorites in this Tiger Rehab Classic. He came with confidence born of the WGC victory and six years experience at Augusta National. Shots that once frightened him are now shots he wants. "I am more aggressive on the golf course and you have to be aggressive to your targets around this place," he said. "You can't let this course intimidate you too much because you'll back away from the shots you should be taking on."
Gary Van Sickle on Tiger:
After 36 holes, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are the only players standing between the No. 1-ranked player on the planet and a fifth green jacket.
Let's check their major championship totals: Tiger 14, Poulter-Westwood combo platter 0.
Those who figured all that time off — combined with all the distractions that come with being the world's most famous celebrity who is entangled in a juicy sex scandal — would cause Tiger to struggle on golf's biggest stage were wrong. The improvement from Thursday to Friday in how he feels about his game is what should worry the rest of the Masters contenders.
Gene Wojciechowski writes for ESPN.com:
You know, if Woods can somehow survive the international fallout of his marital infidelity, I think he can pretty much handle some tucked pin placements on Saturday and Sunday. And what do you think scares him more: a divorce lawyer or the firm of Westwood & Poulter?
John Garrity looks at Tiger's swing tempo and where it was, where it is and what it all means.
Mike Freeman and CBSSports.com took exception to Tiger invoking Ben Hogan's name.
Hogan missed time because he was a valiant hero who saved his wife. Woods missed time after cheating on his with cocktail waitresses and porn stars. Woods continually putting his name and Hogan's together in that way is like an actor who plays a war hero saying he knows the pain of war.
Yet that's Woods, and clearly such arrogance, rightly and wrongly, continues to fuel him. What he's doing at the Masters now is man bites dog stuff. It's the moon landing. It's the ghosts of Jim Brown, Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth all rolled up into one.
There's no question Woods could still fall apart this weekend. This is the Masters, and though Woods is playing like a God, he isn't one.
Still, the fact Woods is not just within striking distance but in clear control of the tournament after months of non-competitive play and TMZ stardom is stunning. It induces jaws to drop and multiple thesaurus runs.
According to Cameron Morfit, Phil Knight loved the Tiger ad and sounds, well, a bit surprised to learn it's run its course.
"We liked the ad," he said with a smile. He was wearing new-looking, white Nike running shoes. "It certainly got people talking."
Knight is 72 now, and looks far less spry than he once did. He seemed uncertain about the ad's future. He thought it was going to air through the weekend, but was told it already seemed to have disappeared.
"There's the head of marketing, right there," Knight said, pointing to Nike's Denson, behind him.
Denson told Knight and me that the controversial spot has run its course and will be replaced by a series of more light-hearted spots with other players, including Lucas Glover, shot at "The Oven," Nike's testing facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
Knight didn't seem particularly interested to hear about those ads.
"I don't think they're going to stop talking about that first one," he said.
Oh they're talking about it and spoofing it. Viewer discretion advised:
And thanks to the reader who noticed that the Holy Taco site got ahold of one of Tiger's scorecards.
Jeff Babineau on Phil Mickelson's weekend prospects.
“I’ve been rolling the ball as well as I have in a long time. ... I have a nice, tight track on it and they’re rolling out very good. As soon as those 12- and 15-footers start to fall instead of catching the lips, I feel I have a really low round in me.”
This could be a very special weekend for Mickelson. His mother, Mary, who has been fighting cancer, followed him around at Augusta National on Friday; Phil’s wife, Amy, also battling breast cancer, has been camped in Augusta this week with the couple’s three children. It’s the first time all the Mickelsons have been together at a tournament since last spring at The Players.
Wow. What a Sunday celebration THIS could be.
Inevitably, one’s mind returns to late last year, when McIlroy demonstrated that he was a young man with a mind of his own by ignoring the advice of Ernie Els and Westwood, who both advocated that he would do better playing most of his golf in Europe and making only occasional visits to the US. Instead McIlroy decided to take his card to play on the PGA Tour.
THE OLD GUYS
Cameron Morfit on an interesting backstory involving Watson and Couples as well as the varied ways Couples has attempted to loosen up his back.
Bill Fields wonders if Watson is trying to channel Sam Snead's late in life success and offers this:
When he was aged 50 to 65, Snead competed in 42 major championships and finished in the top 10 nine times, with at least one in every Grand Slam event. The last three of those top-10s came in the PGA Championship from 1972-1974, years in which Snead was 60, 61 and 62 years old and finished T-4, T-9 and T-3 respectively.
In a sexagenarian encore -- and golf record that probably will stand forever -- when Snead was 67 he shot his age in the second round of the 1979 Quad Cities Open and bettered it by a stroke the next day.
Watson laughed Friday when asked if he was trying to channel some of Snead's sixtysomething skills. "No, nobody can fit in his shoes," Watson said. "He was maybe the best golfer/athlete -- natural athlete -- who ever walked down the pike."
Michael Bamberger says the greens are just too fast for the geezers to win.
Of the four major championships, the Masters is the hardest one for an old guy to win. The putting and chipping requirements are just too demanding.
That doesn't mean that Watson and especially Couples can't shoot good scores on Saturday, when the course is likely to play extremely hard. The point here is that four straight days are too much.
Ryan Herrington tells us about Sandy Lyle's 69-86, features this from Lyle:
"It was like playing with a square golf ball," noted the 52-year-old Scotsman. "I never got anything going all day."
Jim McCabe points out the role that No. 18 played in causing several missed cuts.
E. Michael Johnson suggests the 8th hole is playing more difficult than normal.
Though David Westin incorrectly refers to the conforming grooves as V-shaped (don't let Bobby Clampett see this article, or Westin will get a lecture!), the information about how they are impacting play is still excellent:
"I would say there was a bit of a difference, mostly around the green," Heath Slocum said after Thursday's first round, in which he shot even-par 72.
With the U-shape grooves, players might loft a chip shot, knowing it would check up. Now, they're not so sure with the V-shape ones.
"Some of the chips definitely had less grip and I had to be a little more bump-and-run-ish," Slocum said. "I normally would have gone high with it and let it hit, skip and then stop. This time, from experience this week, I played a bump-and-run instead."
From the rough with the V-shape grooves, it is more difficult to hold a green, as David Toms found out on the third hole.
"I had a downwind shot from 70 yards, and I think I hit what I thought was a pretty good shot," Toms said. "It landed 10 feet short and went all the way over the green with a 60-degree wedge."
FLORA, FAUNA AND FAA NEWS
AP reports that the banner-toting planes were grounded Friday because, get ready...they did not have a seat belt that met FAA standards.
Jason Howe, an employee for the advertising company, said Friday the plane's only problem was with a seatbelt that failed to meet FAA standards. He said the company was complying with the order to fix it.
And finally, the Ancient Twitter, Dan Jenkins has the last word: