By Jay Betsill
The big news coming in to the 2014 Masters Tournament was Tiger Woods not being at Augusta National for the first time since 1994. Tiger’s absence meant that 29 of the top 30 players in the world were in the field for the season’s first major, but the big news on Friday was roughly half of those players missing the cut. Among the big names heading home after Friday’s round were Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Charl Schwartzel. Rory McIlroy followed his opening 71 with a 77 and had to par No. 18 to make the cut on the number.
2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson was just fine with flying under the radar on his way to a three shot cushion heading into the weekend. Watson, whose 4-under-par 68 along with his opening 69 got him to 7-under, ended a two year winless drought earlier this year with a victory at Riviera.
“If I can hit greens that means I’ve hit good tee shots, and I hit good irons shots and just trying to make par from there and throw in a birdie here and there,” Watson said.
While Watson mentioned that part of the reason he was able to maintain his focus was the lack of media attention he had received as defending champion Adam Scott was busy entertaining the media and hosting the champions dinner. Scott began the day near the top of the leaderboard and fell out of contention with three bogeys in the first five holes, but rebounded after the turn to finish at 3-under.
One of the more remarkable stories of the day was the continued excellence of 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples. This is the fifth straight year that Couples has entered the weekend at Augusta in the top 10.
“I can’t panic,” said Couples. “You’re not going to pick up two or three shots here because you want to. It’s not that kind of course. You’ve got to hang in there, expect a tough shot here and there. It’s going to be a tough day tomorrow.”
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