Masters 2024: Previewing the weekend with a three-way tie at the top

Headline

Products You May Like

AUGUSTA, Ga. — It was a wild, windy day at Augusta National Golf Club, where even par was a good score and anything better might as well have been a miracle.

Winds up to 45 mph and a firm golf course did not allow for much scoring as only 14 players were under par and the top score after the second round finished remained where it began — 7 under.

Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa and Bryson DeChambeau find themselves tied atop the leaderboard after 36 tough holes with plenty of players lurking below ready to make a weekend run, including Tiger Woods.

Here are the top storylines heading into the weekend:

Can Scottie Scheffler hold on?

Schlabach: I picked Scheffler to win by 5 strokes before the tournament, and I’m not backing down after 36 holes. I have to admit that I was expecting more from him in the second round, but the swirling winds and gusts of more than 30 mph were difficult for everyone — even the No. 1 golfer in the world and best ball striker on the planet.

Unless someone makes an unexpected charge from outside the top 10, I still like Scheffler’s chances to win a green jacket more than anybody else’s. Max Homa played great over the first 36 holes, but he hasn’t performed well in majors until now. I’m still not convinced Bryson DeChambeau’s iron play will hold up — unless the new irons he built with a 3D printer are really that good.

Collin Morikawa might be a legitimate threat if his putter stays hot. Tommy Fleetwood and Cameron Young are nice players, but they’re still searching for their first PGA Tour victories. Nicolai Højgaard and Ludvig Åberg are extremely talented, but do they have enough experience to win a major?

Uggetti: He might not be in the lead by himself, but given Scheffler’s dominant play as of late, it feels like he’s always got a leg up on the field whenever he tees it up. Don’t get me wrong — Scheffler has played good golf. But it still doesn’t feel like he’s playing up to his full potential, which we could be witness to come the weekend.

Scheffler is actually gaining strokes putting (+0.33) on the field, which speaks to his improvement on the greens, an area that has typically held him back. Unsurprisingly, Scheffler is also leading the field in strokes gained: tee to green, a statistic on which he has led the entire PGA Tour this season. In that way, the start of the major season has been no different.

“I think major championship golf has a tendency to just be very mentally grinding,” Scheffler said. “Just with how much the wind is blowing. It can be so difficult, and you know, you’ve just got to do your best to relax as much as possible out there and try and execute.” Nobody is better at executing than Scheffler. With the afternoon winds making the late rounds much harder, he was still able to remain at the top of the leaderboard. Put the best player in the world against Homa, DeChambeau or anyone else in the same conditions, and good luck trying to beat him.


What’s your expectation for Tiger Woods on the weekend?

Schlabach: I wasn’t sure if Tiger would even make the cut this week given that he had played only 24 holes of golf in one PGA Tour event before the Masters. Now, I’m convinced you can’t count Woods out at Augusta National — even if he’s playing with a fused back and right ankle. He’s only 7 shots behind the leaders, which isn’t insurmountable over 36 holes.

Tiger looked much better walking Friday afternoon than he did in the morning. The short turnaround from when play was suspended in the first round shortly before 8 p.m. ET Thursday, and the restart at 7:45 a.m. on Friday wasn’t enough time for Woods to recover and get his body started again. He looked tired and sluggish early, but he eventually warmed up and played well in the second round.

With a 1-over score after 36 holes, Woods won’t have an early tee time on Saturday, so he’ll get some additional rest before the third round. He’s driving the ball great off the tee and his work around the greens is still world-class. There’s no question his lack of reps has affected his iron play and putting — he was 1-for-19 on putts outside 10 feet over the first 36 holes — but he made some clutch putts to save par on Friday.

I don’t think Tiger is going to win a green jacket on Sunday, but I’m not sure a top-10 finish isn’t out of the question for the 15-time major champion.

Uggetti: A 1-over finish in these conditions to make his record 24th cut at the Masters is an incredible feat for Woods. He’s still well back of the leaders, but it’s impossible to count him out at least competing for a top-10 finish, if not better.

Woods knows this golf course better than anyone in the field and has the potential to thrive in windy conditions. Watching him on Friday as he played 23 holes, it was evident both how much he used his course knowledge to his advantage and how much better he could have scored had his putting been slightly improved.

Perhaps the weekend will bring a better result for Woods on the greens as he gets comfortable with the speed. So far, despite his putting shortcomings, he has kept himself in it thanks to great driving (11 of 14 fairways in both rounds) and an incredible short game. Woods has gone both high and low to save pars and it’s been thrilling to watch him get in and out of tough situations. That creativity should continue to help him.

As Mark said, most importantly, Woods looks healthy. He was visibly tired from his marathon day Friday, but he was still walking well. Though he clearly needed a few holes to get warm Friday morning, there were few, if any, signs of strain on his back or legs. The forecast is only supposed to get warmer from here on out, which should bode well for Woods, too.

“I prefer it warm, humid and hot,” Woods said earlier this week.

At the very least, there will certainly be a moment Saturday when Woods makes some kind of charge. Buckle up.


What do Bryson DeChambeau and Max Homa need to do to win their first green jacket?

Schlabach: Both of them seem to be in a really nice spot mentally, and staying confident and relaxed is going to be important on the weekend. They’re both playing very well at the moment.

Homa is a six-time winner on the PGA Tour and one of the most talented golfers in the world. But his track record in majors coming into the Masters was awful: He had one top-10 finish and two top-25s in 17 such starts. Homa finally seems convinced that he’s good enough to win a major, and that’s probably been the biggest obstacle holding him back.

Over the first 36 holes, he hit 72.2% of greens and 71.4% of fairways. He was gaining 2 strokes on the field in putting. If Homa keeps that up, he’s going to be tough to beat.

DeChambeau won the 2020 U.S. Open and carded a 58 in the LIV Golf League last year. The guy still hits it a country mile — he had a 372-yard bomb off the tee on the 17th hole in the second round — but his game has matured beyond a dude who crushes it. He seems to be more patient and deliberate. He’s trying to hit it to the right spots and has been avoiding the wrong ones. He’s one of the best putters out there (he’s gaining close to 2 strokes on the field on the greens) and his iron play was exceptional in the first round.

Uggetti: Patience. You know that Scheffler will play methodical, smart golf and put himself in the right places around Augusta this weekend. The question is: Can either Homa or DeChambeau do it too? So far both have proved they can hang, especially in tough conditions. Both have hit over 72% of greens in regulation this week — which tops the field.

Watching Homa flight his approach shots in the wind through two days has been a delight, and even Tiger has been impressed at the ball flight Homa has been producing.

“He’s got all the talent in the world,” Woods said of Homa, his playing partner during the first two rounds. “… His ball flight, as solid as he hits it, it’s just a matter of time before he starts winning in bunches. I saw it up front; he doesn’t really mishit shots. That’s something you just have to do around this golf course.”

Meanwhile, DeChambeau keeps playing like a more mature, restrained version of the player who won the 2020 U.S. Open. He may be aided by 3D-printed irons and a Krank driver, but the guy is showing he has the game to win another major. Maintaining that restraint will be key.


Which player under par can make a weekend charge?

Schlabach: Collin Morikawa is a two-time major champion, but he has won only once on tour since picking up his second one at The Open at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in England in July 2021.

This season, Morikawa hasn’t had a top-10 finish since tying for fifth at the Sentry, the season opener in Hawaii, on Jan. 7. He tied for 45th at the Players Championship and for 75th in the Valero Texas Open in his two most recent starts.

Morikawa has found something at Augusta National. He is 3 under after 36 holes and carded a 2-under 70 in the second round. He’s right there in the mix.

Morikawa came into the week ranked 80th on tour in strokes gained: approach (.120) and 164th in strokes gained: putting (-.531). So far in the Masters, he is gaining nearly 2.5 strokes on approach and more than 1.25 strokes in putting, according to Data Golf. If his form holds up over the final 36 holes, Morikawa could be a factor Sunday.

“Just kept the ball in front of me,” Morikawa said. “Look, I’ve been grinding and had to find something in a swing thought to work this week, and we found something early on Monday, and we’re just kind of sticking with that.

“It’s still not perfect, but perfect doesn’t have to be out there. I’m able to play good golf and plot my way around this golf course. Especially with the wind out here, you had to just kind of really stay patient out there.”

Uggetti: As if we needed any more proof that Ludvig Åberg is a potential star in the making. The Swede followed up a round of 73 on Thursday with a ridiculous 69 on Friday, which was easily the lowest round of the day for any player and beat the field average by over 6 strokes.

What’s maybe more impressive is that Åberg was 2 over seven holes into his second round and proceeded to go 4 under over his last 11. Åberg is clearly not fazed by the moment or the stage, especially after taking part in a Ryder Cup, and I don’t think he will be unprepared for what the weekend at Augusta holds either.

“I think, once you’re walking between the shots, you can soak it in as much as you can,” Åberg said of his debut. “But once you’re over the ball, once you’re making the decisions of what you want to do, that’s when you’re in tournament mode.”

With his length and accuracy off the tee, Åberg is a threat to make lots of birdies if his approach game is dialed. He’s hitting only 55% of greens in regulation so far. If that number improves, he’s bound to keep rising up the leaderboard.


Who is the biggest disappointment so far?

Schlabach: We probably shouldn’t have expected much from two-time major championship winner Justin Thomas after he parted ways with caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay just last week. Thomas has struggled mightily for much of the past two seasons, and he had a missed cut at the Players Championship and a tie for 64th at the Valspar Championship in his two most recent starts.

But JT’s collapse on the final four holes of the second round Friday was absolutely stunning. After carding an even-par 72 in the first round, Thomas was in great shape after he picked up a birdie on the par-5 13th in the second round. He was even par after 14 holes.

What happened next was inexplicable. Thomas went double bogey, double bogey, bogey and double bogey over the last four holes to finish 7 over and miss the cut by 1 stroke.

At the 2023 Masters, Thomas made bogeys on three of the final four holes to miss the cut by 1. That finish seemed to send him into a tailspin, and this one is only going to make things worse for his confidence.

Uggetti: Thomas’ good friend, Jordan Spieth, was arguably worse this week. From the moment the tournament began, Spieth put himself in a terrible position with his first tee shot and approach to the first green. He made double bogey there, and it didn’t get much better.

Over the 36 holes, Spieth made seven bogeys, one double, one quadruple bogey and only four birdies to finish 9 strokes over par and well outside the cut line.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Pacers spurred by fiery Carlisle, roll into Game 7
Cowboys’ Dak Prescott meets fan who said he wouldn’t be alive without QB’s mental health message
Arkansas basketball’s three biggest needs to fill out John Calipari’s first roster
NFL 2024 schedule: How to watch every football game of the 2024 season
Three reasons why Bruins lost second-round playoff series vs. Panthers