Saturday, 11 April 2009

McIlroy survives a kick in the sand - Harringtons challenge set back by a bad case of wind - Troubles for the Irish at Augusta

Right, so who's still kicking and screaming at the Masters after round two? Well, Sandy Lyle rolled back the years yesterday – a cracking round of 70 left him two under and like the young schoolboy he appeared to have regressed to, excited at the prospect of maybe getting a run out with Tiger. run of five birdies to get to three under – clearly been on the glucosamine and getting his fury at Monty off his chest clearly agreed with him. Pity he rounded it off with a five at the last but he was in good company there.

18 has been a costly hole for Tiger this year – 2 attempts, 2 bogeys – his second round par putt just lipped out of the left edge having looked good all the way. He’d done well to set up a chance to save par after finding the right hand bunker but it wasn’t to be. The ensuing post round interview was just as sullen and bad tempered as BBC stalwart Peter Alliss predicted it would be. There’s a creeping arrogance settling into Tigers dealings with the press and Alliss is not the only one to notice it. He needs to be careful with that. Things have not just been going right for him so far and he seems a bit miffed – like it should be and it’s not his fault. Saying that, have you ever seen him swinging better, he looks like a golfing Adonis out there. Poetry in motion, but fierce poetry, poetry with guns of steel.

In blustery conditions the scoring was not expected to be great. No one seemed to have told Anthony Kim that who went about posting a record number of birdies in 18 holes at Augusta. 11 birdies came Kims way thanks to some great iron shots and superlative putting. Having had a very average first day, this was anything but. He did have two bogeys and a one double to temper his score a little but he’d have bitten your hand off for a 65 at the start of the day. His new record tops that of Nick Price who had managed ten birdies in a single round.

Playing with him was the heir apparent himself Rory Mc. Things were rolling along nicely for the Holywood teenager and when he hit a trademark booming drive at 13 to set himself up with the most straightforward of eagles you could see (he made it look like a par four) he was as good as four under.

Things did not sail so smoothly from there on. Particularly costly was a hash of the 16th green. Four putts is not the way to stay in contention at majors. And by the time he got to 18 he was struggling. He hit it into the same right greenside bunker as Tiger had – the difference being that Tiger with calm authority played a lovely recovery bunker shot. Rory could only splash his ball four or five feet in front of him. His second bash duly came out flying low and was off the green on the other side. So it was when he finally drained it after seven shots he’d gone right back to the plus one cut mark.

But even that was not all for Rory. Twenty minutes or so later and rumours of an investigation into McIlroys round surfaced. It transpired that want seemed an innocuous if petulant kick at the sand in between bunker shots may cost him his place over the weekend. It could be deemed as testing the ground, a one shot penalty in the bunker, which would have been enough to make him miss the cut and would be a two shot penalty anyhow for signing the wrong card. After a chat with officials however it was deemed that he had not gained advantage by improving his lie and as a player is allowed to smooth over sand after a bunker shot as long as he does not affect his next shot, Rory was in the clear. It may turn out to work in his favour as he’ll be going out early with a bit of freedom to just go for it. Who knows what he could do.

Up the top end of the leaderboard I’m sure I was just as shocked as the rest of you to see Ghost of Open past Todd Hamilton lying 6 under. What the hell is going on? He’s getting ideas above his station once more. Bad enough that the likes of him and Ben Curtis started winning the Open and thus making for incredibly tournaments for us all. “Todd Who?” being the most commonly uttered phrase of that week. He can’t go mucking up the masters on us too. We demand quality winners – no more Zach Johnsons either –let’s have quality.

Mickelson, a quality winner here in the past, was running a bit slow. That’s until he turned up at 13 and made an ass of its par 5 status spanking an absolute monster to leave only a nine iron or so which he damn near put in the hole. Mickelsion claimed to be responsible for the lengthening of the hole after Hootie Johnson saw his drive there. The rest of the field will be hoping the Augusta officials were looking the other way. He’s not done himself any favours with some scrappy play but he still looks dangerous if things start to click. Not sure about his brown shirt though, a bit too close to um, well, you know, you’ve seen Reservoir Dogs.

Sergio truly is a quality player but he has thus far lacked the intestinal fortitude to got out and grab a major and make it his. Maybe being back with his old friend the belly putter has given him the stomach for it. Massively overhitting it on 12, he flops it short and into the water on 13 and with him finding Rae’s creek you had the feeling he could fall by the wayside. But not this time. He turned it around in great fashion to get himself up to four under. It was his first subpar round at the masters since 2004, an incredible statistic. I think it would be a cruel man who would deny Garcia and his swashbuckling approach to the game deserves a break and it sure would be fantastic to watch. But should he get close you know what that would mean. Harrington loves hunting Sergio and the Paddy slam would surely be on.

Harrington was coasting a bit yesterday before, as damn near everyone seemed to be doing he helped himself to an eagle on 13 with a monster putt. I think the pin position may be a mite less rewarding today. He then had a bit of a nightmare on the 15th with the wind rearing up to bite him on the bum. Metaphorically of course. A great birdie chance turned into a clutch par putt when having gone through his entire putting routine, he stepped back off the ball when the wind reared up to steady himself. He had another wee practice before a gust took his ball off on a wee wander. It was cruel luck but as he had addressed the ball already (though it was debatable if had really set himself he had grounded the club) it was a penalty shot. But if there’s one thing Harrington has turned into his meat and drink these past few years it’s clutch putts and he sauntered off the green not sore at losing a penalty stroke because the wind was against him but happy to have made the putt. Thats the mental strength everyone babbles on about when they mention his name.

Justin Rose, faced with a treacherous shot out of the bunker on 16, duly holed out where it could easily have run 30 feet on to the bottom of the green, a great shot. He had to spoil it by trying a gangsta style finger click in celebration, looking like an public school boy. But to be fair to the lad he did the same bloody thing on 17 to record two 0 putt holes in a row. He’s taken a different approach this year, avoiding the trap of taking the early lead to continually get worse during the week. Maybe Rose will do better building things up - maybe he will come into bloom if you will (apologies, had to be written).

Leading the way we have the evergreen Kenny Perry, who is a bit of a Benjamin Button, consistently getting better the older he gets. Now he hasn't got a Ryder Cup to qualify for he can get back to actually playing in Majors again. A flawless round with five birdies see's him top the leaderboard on nine under par. He has company there though...

I was wrong about Chad – he’s stuck around another day, who’d have thunk it. Still it’s got to be coming hasn’t it and when it does, I think it will be quite a big slide down the leaderboard for mini Jabba.

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