Johnson, Thomas among Masters leaders, while DeChambeau is in danger of going home

By | November 14, 2020

This was the day that Bryson DeChambeau learned the flip side of hitting a golf ball out of sight.

DeChambeau’s crusade to redefine driving length in professional golf has not put a dent in this Masters. On the 350-yard, par-4 third hole on Friday, he crushed a drive that landed just short of the green in left rough.

But neither DeChambeau nor anyone else could find it, and he trudged back to the tee for his third shot after the lost-ball penalty and struggled to a triple-bogey seven.

DeChambeau’s second round was interrupted by darkness after 12 holes. He is 11 strokes behind the leaders as the Masters heads into the weekend, and two strokes off the projected cut of even par.

Dustin Johnson, the world’s top-ranked player and a driving machine who was the runner-up here in 2019 and has four consecutive top 10 finishes, is tied for the lead at 9-under.

He is joined by Justin Thomas, Abraham Ancer of Mexico and Cameron Smith of Australia. Just behind them is Patrick Cantlay of Long Beach and UCLA, after a 27-hole day that featured a 66 in the official second round.

Tiger Woods couldn’t find his first-round mojo after his 68 on Thursday. He was even par for the day and has eight holes to make up before his third round.

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Augusta National dried out and played quicker, but its general softness has frustrated veterans who rely on their experience.

“You can throw all that out the window,” Rory McIlroy said. “You play this course by memory. The greens are so much slower that they’re using pins they haven’t used before.”

Of the top eight players on the leaderboard, none have won the Masters. Ancer and Sungjae Im are playing here for the first time, Smith for the third and Cantlay and Jon Rahm for the fourth.

Eighteen players are within three strokes of the lead, and Phil Mickelson, the 50-year-old three-time champ, is four behind.

“I’m hitting the ball exceptional and I’m putting horrific,” Mickelson said. “I’m driving it like a stallion. When I get my putting straightened out I’m going to make a run.”

Johnson had a three-stroke lead after four holes in his second round, but he didn’t make another birdie until his 18th. His 2-under-par 70 still impressed McIlroy, one of his partners.

“It’s ‘see ball, hit ball, see putt, hit putt,’’’ McIlroy said. “He makes it so simple. I can’t compare him to anybody else. He has one of the best attitudes in the history of the game.”

Cantlay hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation Thursday and then needed only 24 putts on Friday. He has not suffered a three-putt green yet and, in his past four Masters rounds, is 20-under.

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“I birdied all the par-5s today and I didn’t get any of them yesterday,” Cantlay said. “The same guys play well every year because they have good memories and they come back every year. I’m trying to build those memories.”

Bernhard Langer, a two-time champ who is 63, illustrated that by making the cut at 3-under-par, even though he is using woods to get to par-4 greens and is driving it 74 fewer yards than DeChambeau.

Thomas and Im lead the field with 14 birdies each, and Thomas shook off a bogey on No. 13, the easiest hole on the course, and a double-bogey on No. 1 to catch Johnson.

“I have a tendency to get long and slow with my putts,” said Thomas, who hasn’t finished in the top 10 here, “and sometimes I putt skittish and scared. A lot of things you know about this place can hurt you this week, at least so far.”

Those who feared DeChambeau would reduce Augusta National to the world’s most elegant Top Golf chalet have been somewhat reassured. A poor sand shot cost DeChambeau a bogey on No. 7, and on Thursday he drove into the trees at No. 1 and double-bogeyed. He has missed 12 greens out of 30.

But if fans had been on the grounds, it’s hard to imagine one of them wouldn’t have spotted DeChambeau’s ball on No. 3. The same thing happened on Sunday at the U.S. Open when no one could find Harris English’s first tee shot. That became a double bogey. Perhaps more fairway scouts are needed, preferably bespectacled.

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It did not help DeChambeau’s fortunes when an official found the ball a few minutes after the group left the hole, and after the three-minute limit had expired.

DeChambeau has had dust-ups with rules officials this year. On this occasion, he merely said, “Rules are rules.”

They have survived DeChambeau through 30 holes, as have physical laws.

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