Tue. Oct 22nd, 2019

Masters 2019: Rebula, Schwartzel face the cut as Molinari leads

molinari 2019 mastersSouth Africa’s Augusta contingent wasn’t having the best day at the office during Round 2 of the 2019 Masters.

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This report will be updated throughout day two of the Masters. Last update: 12 April 2019 at 20:27.

Additional reporting by AFP, agencies.

Reigning British Open champion Francesco Molinari of Italy charged into the lead Friday at the Masters as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy began their second rounds at Augusta National.

An afternoon drama was set to unfold with a fistful of contenders within two shots on one of golf’s greatest stages, playing receptive after early rain but still confounding many of the sport’s top shotmakers.

Sixth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau shared the 18-hole lead with fourth-ranked US countryman Brooks Koepka after opening 66s and stayed atop the field through his front nine thanks to birdies at the par-5 second and eighth holes against bogeys at the seventh and ninth, when his approaches went over the greens.

But DeChambeau, whose best major finish in 10 starts was a share of 15th at the 2016 US Open, was undone at the par-4 10th, when he chipped over the green, pitched to 19 feet and missed his bogey putt, stumbling back to four-under.

That turned the lead over to European stars Molinari, who birdied the par-3 12th, and England’s Ian Poulter, who birdied 12 and the par-5 13th. But Poulter stumbled to a bogey at the 14th and that left Molinari alone at the top.

Molinari, who opened Thursday on 70, birdied the par-4 third and left the front nine with back-to-back birdies.

The 36-year-old from Turin won his first major title at last year’s British Open and went on to be Europe’s hero at last year’s Ryder Cup, going 5-0 in a victory over the United States in France.

Seventh-ranked Molinari, never better than 19th at the Masters, won last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and was third in the WGC Match Play.

Poulter, a long-time European Ryder Cup star seeking his first major title in his 60th career major start, had a bogey-birdie start then reeled off nine pars before his back-to-back birdies and bogey leaving “Amen Corner.”

That left him in a share of third on five-under with Australian Jason Day and Koepka.

Day had been a question mark after aggravating a back injury on Thursday.

Fourth-ranked Koepka, last year’s US Open and PGA Championship winner who missed the 2018 Masters with a left wrist injury, slid from the lead with a roller coaster start — birdies sandwiched around a double bogey at the second when he found left trees off the tee and needed three strokes to escape the pines.

Bogeys at the par-3 fourth and sixth followed but a birdie at eight kept him only one adrift.

Mickelson’s 100th

US left-hander Phil Mickelson, who would become the oldest major champion in golf history with a win this week at age 48, played the front nine in par in his 100th career Masters round but a bogey at 10 dropped him back to four-under.

Mickelson birdied the second and bogeyed the fifth, then found trees left and right of the fairway on the way to a bogey at the par-5 eighth — only to respond by sinking a 13-foot birdie putt at the ninth.

Mickelson, a five-time major winner, is a few months older than Julius Boros when he set the current mark by winning the 1968 PGA Championship.

Tiger and Rory start

Woods, a 14-time major winner seeking his first major title since the 2008 US Open, and four-time major champion McIlroy, seeking a green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam, went off in the final two groups.

Woods, a four-time Masters champion, returned from spinal fusion surgery last year and contended in the British Open and PGA Championship as well as snapping a five-year US PGA title drought by taking the Tour Championship title.

At 12th in the world, Woods is the highest-ranked player this week to have won a green jacket, this marking the first Masters since rankings began in 1986 where no one in the top 10 has won at Augusta National.

McIlroy struggled with a 73 to start while Woods opened on 70, just as he did in his first three Masters triumphs.

A McIlroy victory would put the Northern Ireland star in elite company with a win in every major, joining Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan.

World number one Justin Rose, twice a Masters runner-up and without a missed cut in 13 Augusta appearances, stumbled to an opening 75 and played Friday’s front nine in par, struggling to reach the weekend much less become the first top-ranked player to capture the green jacket since Woods in 2002.

South Africa’s hopes sinking

Justin Harding stormed into the lead on day one, but the South African contingent at Augusta didn’t look so spritely on day two.

At the time of writing, Ernie Els’ nephew, Jovan Rebula, looked set for the cut alongside 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel. Branden Grace, Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen and Harding were all still safe, but some way off the chasing pack.

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