Two Englishmen, a pair of brash Americans and a couple of the world’s best players litter the Masters leaderboard after 36 holes.
It’s setting up to be a whopper of a weekend at Augusta National.
Who’s going to win?
It’s anyone’s guess.
It could be Lee Westwood or Ian Poulter, both of whom are looking to claim a major title for the first time. While each have been serious contributors to the European Ryder Cup team, neither has been able to bring it home at a major. Westwood was a putt away from playing in the Woods-Mediate U.S. Open playoff in 2008 and he’s the more experienced of the two Englishmen, but Poulter might very well be one of the game’s best players right now who doesn’t own a major title. Honestly, I’d be somewhat surprised if Westwood hangs on to win the green jacket — I don’t think his putter is good enough under the gun — but it wouldn’t shock me at all to see Poulter put together two more solid rounds and be the winner on Sunday night.
The two brash Americans I referenced are NOT Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. I’m talking about Anthony Kim (-6) and Ricky Barnes (-6). Kim was the winner of last week’s PGA Tour event in Houston and his swashbuckling, go-for-every-shot style is eerily similar to the great Seve Ballesteros, who never met a tree or a downhill lie he couldn’t beat. Barnes was the runner-up at last summer’s U.S. Open and even though many in the golf community have questioned his swing over the last couple of years, it’s obviously holding up well this week at Augusta. I don’t see either player having the nerves on the greens to win the green jacket, but Kim certainly has the shotmaking and ball striking ability to stay in the hunt for the next 36 holes.
K.J. Choi continues to impress, with a two-round total of -6. He played the first two rounds with Tiger Woods and was essentially unmoved by all the talk, hype and fan-following surrounding the game’s #1 player. Choi is a very strong player and someone who’s very capable of winning this year’s Masters tournament.
The “aging” Americans are Woods (-6) and Mickelson (-6), both of whom are positioned perfectly for a weekend of great golf and, perhaps, their 5th or 3rd green jacket respectively. Tiger made just one bogey on Friday, a sure sign that his swing is holding up well. Mickelson continues to stroll along quietly through 2 rounds and will be heard from over the next two days.
You can’t help but think the golf gods are going to assemble for a late snack on Saturday afternoon and try and organize a Tiger-Phil pairing for Sunday. And if both of them are within three or four shots of the lead going into the final 18…well…let the fireworks and the TV ratings begin.
Until his putter stopped working late in the round on Friday, Fred Couples was on the leaderboard for a second straight day. Still, at -3, all he needs is a 68 or 69 on Saturday and I’d assume he’ll be right in the mix for a Sunday showdown with the leaders.
There’s bound to be someone on the 2nd or 3rd page of the leaderboard make a jump with a 67 or so on Saturday. It might be Trevor Immelman. It could be Robert Karlsson.
But this much is for sure: If any of the leaders – those at -6 or better – simply fire a 71 or better in round three, they’ll go into Sunday’s play with a legitimate chance to win.
It’s going to be a wild weekend in Augusta.
I wonder what the golf gods have in store for us?