AUGUSTA: US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, whose ball-bashing feats had people fearing he would overwhelm Augusta National, is struggling just to make the cut at the Masters. The bulked-up American, a pre-Masters favorite who said the course played like a par-67 to him instead of a par-72, lost his ball on the third hole Friday on the way to a triple bogey that has him over the projected record-low 1-under cut line. “I’m a little off,” DeChambeau told the Golf Channel.
DeChambeau opened with a two-under 70 despite hooking several tee shots to the left, thanks to back-to-back closing birdies, and reached 3-under overall with a birdie Friday at the par-5 second. Then it all fell apart. DeChambeau blasted his tee shot at the par-4 third into rain-soaked rough and no one could find it. “So you’re saying if I can’t find it, it’s a lost ball?” DeChambeau asked a rules official as the search went on. He became a victim of the lost ball rule, went back to the tee and started over, ending up with a triple-bogey 7 on the hole. “Rules are rules,” DeChambeau said.
The frustration appeared to linger, with DeChambeau making bogeys on the next two holes and following birdies at the par-3 sixth and par-5 eighth with bogeys at the seventh and 10th. He closed the day with a birdie at the par-3 12th, the 155-yard shortest hole on the course. DeChambeau drives often go twice as far as the total distance of that hole. But the birdie left him 1-over with six to play, including the par-5 13th and 15th, and with Augusta National surrendering a record number of sub-par scores, DeChambeau will need to take full advantage to play the final two rounds.
World number two Jon Rahm of Spain, a playing partner of DeChambeau, said he helped seek the lost ball but few saw hope of finding it. “When you have Bryson hitting it as hard as he hits it, it’s kind of hooking with not much spin into a soft area, we were all confident it was pretty buried and it was going to be hard to find,” Rahm said. “It’s unfortunate that the rules of golf don’t let you figure out it’s somewhere there and keep playing. “He had to re-tee and I know that affected him a little bit because he didn’t play his best golf after that. “But he’s a fighter and he’s showing it. It was just unfortunate.”
A test for Tiger, Rahm
Defending champion Tiger Woods was set for a test at Amen Corner while second-ranked Jon Rahm chased the leaders as the darkness-halted second round of the Masters resumed yesterday. World number one Dustin Johnson, third-ranked Justin Thomas, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Australia’s Cameron Smith shared the clubhouse lead on nine-under par 135 with 47 players returning to the course to complete their second rounds.
Woods, a 15-time major winner seeking his sixth green jacket to match the record set by Jack Nicklaus, was five back on four-under for the tournament and level par in the round after 10 holes. The former world number one opened with a four-under 68, matching his best-ever Masters start as he chases an 83rd career PGA Tour victory to break the record he shares with Sam Snead. Woods, who turns 45 next month, restarts with a 200-yard approach shot at the par-4 11th as he faces Augusta National’s formidable Amen Corner-the famed stretch of holes from 11 to 13 that often proves crucial to deciding champions.
Last year, Woods won a major for the first time when he was not leading entering the final round, capturing the Masters to complete an epic comeback from back surgery that threatened a pain-free life much less his golf career. Spain’s Rahm and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, both chasing a first major title, were on eight-under for the tournament-one off the lead-with holes to play. Rahm birdied the par-3 12th just before sunset Friday and had a bogey-free five-under round going as he returned to finish the last six holes. “Hopefully I can finish strong as I’ve been playing the last two days,” Rahm said.
World number 18 Matsuyama, whose best Masters finish was fifth in 2015, birdied the par-5 15th just before his round was stopped and hopes to complete a bogey-free second round that stood on four-under. “Overall, I’m playing well,” Matsuyama said. “All I can do is just go out and do my best.” In the clubhouse sharing fifth on eight-under 136 were South Korean Im Sung-jae and American Patrick Cantlay with the English trio of Tommy Fleetwood, 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett and 2016 Olympic champion Justin Rose another stroke adrift after 36 holes. – Agencies