AUGUSTA, Ga. — Two days after rain delayed the Masters and softened the course at Augusta National Golf Club, the tournament will enter its penultimate round around 10:30 a.m. Eastern on Saturday.
Tiger Woods, the defending champion, is searching for his sixth victory at Augusta. Other former winners, including Danny Willett and Phil Mickelson, will play their rounds with viable hopes of contending through the weekend.
And the weather in Augusta is supposed to be about as good as any golfer could hope for: sunny, with a high of around 70.
Here’s what you need to know:
The kids are all right.
Look up and down the leader board, and you will see names you have long known, loved and/or reviled: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods.
But the tournament’s top ranks include plenty of players making their inaugural appearances at the Masters, including Abraham Ancer, who is 29 years old and tied for first at 9 under par. Sungjae Im, 22, is at 8 under. Sebastián Muñoz will turn 28 in January, but will enter the third round at 6 under.
Ancer, whose framed Masters invitation hangs in his living room, first played Augusta National last week and found some of the terrain more challenging than it had seemed on television. He played 27 holes that day — good practice, it turned out, for Friday, when he had to go 25 after Thursday’s rain delay.
“I didn’t want to get here for the first time ever this week and being like, you know, really excited,” said Ancer, who shares the lead with Johnson, Thomas and Cameron Smith. “I wanted to feel like I was here and I’ve been here before and it was more normal.”
History does not give first-time Masters players great odds of winning: It has happened three times, including at the first and second tournaments. The only player to manage the feat after 1935 was Fuzzy Zoeller, who won in 1979.
The cut is still to come.
The combination of Thursday’s weather delay and November’s early sunsets mean the cut, set this year at the low 50 scorers and ties, won’t happen until the second round ends on Saturday morning.
Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa — this year’s P.G.A. Championship winner — are among those on the bubble, while about a half dozen former Masters champions, including Fred Couples, Sandy Lyle and José María Olazábal, are effectively done. Bernhard Langer, Patrick Reed and Adam Scott are some of the former winners poised to play on Saturday and Sunday.
Players are figuring out No. 5.
No hole gave players more trouble in 2019 than the one christened Magnolia, which Augusta National had lengthened by 40 yards. This year, the men pursuing a green jacket are proving far better at solving No. 5.
There were 103 bogeys on the hole last year — four of them by Tiger Woods, who won the tournament anyway — and six double bogeys. The hole surrendered just 13 birdies over the tournament, when no other on the course gave away fewer than 20.
Through most of two rounds this week, the field has managed 11 birdies, 37 bogeys and one double bogey, aided by experience and course conditions.
“With that top tier being a lot softer this year, coming in here from a little bit further back, being able to hold it in that back section makes that green play a hell of a lot bigger.,” said Danny Willett, who won the Masters in 2016 and bogeyed No. 5 twice last year before missing the cut.
This year, Willett, who is at 7 under, made par there the first two rounds.
“Usually you’re coming in there trying to just pitch it over that downslope and then hope that it stays short of the back bunker,” he said on Friday, “but with it being softer this year, your only real bad miss there is short where it’s going to be a tricky putt up and over.”
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