A different back nine
Thursday, Phil Mickelson played the back nine in 33 to finish at 1-under 71. Friday, he played it in 40 to finish at 4-over 76. "I made a lot of poor mistakes that I just can't do around here," the three-time Masters champ said. One of the biggest came at No. 10. He hit a gap wedge to the back pin on the 460-yard par 4, the ball landing in a greenside bunker. Then Mickelson left what he called a "pretty easy" shot out of the sand 15 feet from the hole, and he missed the par putt. An errant 9-iron at No. 12 led to double bogey. And he had two more bogeys from there. But Mickelson, at 3 over, remained hopeful. "You're never out of this tournament," he said. "You just never know what's going to happen."
From leader to lost
At about 2 p.m., Dustin Johnson birdied No. 13 and led at 7 under for the tournament. He had a chance to end the round with a sizable lead. Then it fell apart. It began with a bogey at No. 14. Johnson hit his third shot at No. 15, from 70 yards, into the water, leading to a double-bogey 7. A par at No. 16 slowed the bleeding. But Johnson bogeyed No. 17 and double-bogeyed No. 18. In all, he lost six shots in about 90 minutes. After the round, Johnson said he would talk to the media after eating. He didn't return.
Information from Times wires, pgatour.com and golfchannel.com was used in this report.
One day later, a relationship back in disrepair
Even after Thursday's 66 left him tied for the lead, Sergio Garcia admitted Augusta National is "obviously not my favorite (course)." Friday, it showed as he recorded four bogeys and no birdies for 76. Garcia, who hasn't finished in the top 10 at the Masters since 2004, cited the winds that reached 20 mph. "It wasn't only that it was blowing, but it was gusty. And you had to be a little lucky," said Garcia, who was tied for 14th at 2 under. "I still have a chance, and hopefully, I play well the next two days and things will go my way."
Getting back into a groove
With every good round, Rory McIlroy takes another step from the player who walked off the course in the middle of a round last month, then lost his No. 1 world ranking to the player who won five times in 2012. Friday, McIlroy played his final 11 holes in 4 under to shoot 2-under 70 and sit at 2 under for the tournament. McIlroy bogeyed two of his first three holes. But he made four par putts longer than 6 feet, then began his run at the par-5 No. 8. He made eagle after reaching the green in two. "The eighth hole really got me going," McIlroy said. "Then I started to hit some really good, quality shots. I took advantage of a couple of easier holes on the back nine." After the eagle, McIlroy had three birdies and one bogey. The best number: 25 putts after 32 on Thursday. "The improvement in the putting has been a big thing," he said. "I'm committing to my lines a lot better."
Tiger loses two strokes by hitting a shot too well
For a good portion of Friday, Tiger Woods shared the lead thanks to birdies at Nos. 5, 7 and 8. And he shot 71 to sit at 3 under, just three off the lead. But the round could have been much better. Woods missed the fairway at No. 15 but punched out to 87 yards from the hole. His approach was good … too good. It ricocheted off the bottom of the flag and into the water. He needed to convert a 4-footer just for bogey, which he did. "I was pretty (angry)," Woods said. "It was looking like I'm going to make birdie, and now I have to struggle to make bogey." When he won the Masters in 2002 and 2005, Woods sat four back after two rounds. "I played really well in a round that should have been in the 60s," Woods said. "My score doesn't indicate how well I played."
They are not old. They are just very experienced
Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer briefly made Round 2 "Old-Timers Day." Couples, 53, the 1992 champ, followed an opening 68 with 71 to get to 5 under, one off the lead. Langer, 55, who won in 1985 and 1993, shot his second 71 to reach 2 under and a tie for 14th. "I mean, I'm surprised," Couples said. "But I'm not going to freak out over it." Unless "freaking out" is jokingly threatening to retire. "I'm going to quit when I win this thing, I swear to God," Couples said to laughter. "I'm going to retire. It's probably not ever going to happen, but I'm going to retire." Langer praised Couples but downplayed his own chances to win. "I always thought that Freddie, with his length, can win it because he hits it a good 30 yards by me, which helps a great deal on some of these holes," Langer said. "For me to win, everything has to go my way. I got to start making some putts most of all."