After two days of negotiating the foliage, the ‘get in the holes’ and the unexpected attention of teenybopper One Direction fans the world over, we’re at the halfway point in Augusta.
Jordan Speith (-14) has risen to the top of the leaderboard with some sublime golf and some sublime ‘just not going into Rae’s Creek’. But does it mean he’s likely to go all the way? The finish line may be in sight, but the final stretch is still littered with pitfalls. Honest.
A lead at the halfway point is a nice boost to the ego, but, if punters are looking for some straws to clutch, history shows that rarely has it translated into slipping your arms into that green jacket on Sunday evening. In fact, generally players leading at the halfway point look about as reliable as a Geoff Ogilvy witness statement.
Bubba Watson did it last year, Trevor Immelman did it as part of his wire to wire success in 2008, but just five other players since 1974 have been the man leading after 36 holes and then leading a further 36 holes later. Despite Bubba’s dominance 12 months ago, it would appear that it’s better to be the man doing the shooting rather than the man being shot at halfway through the Masters.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 10, 2015
Over the last decade, if you’re not in the Top 10 come Friday evening, your chances are slimmer than Darren Clarke once he realised how good he looked with a beard and without a beer belly. Charl Schwartzel came from six shots back at halfway in the 2011 edition and Bernhardt Langer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger have defied the same deficit in the last 31 years, but miracle comebacks are rarer than a smile from Colin Montgomerie. Under normal circumstances, that stat would this weekend rule out such immense silly-pants-wearing talent as Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey (all T3, or seven behind Speith going into Saturday’s round), and Ernie Els in sixth who’s nine behind.
Positions don’t really matter as much as shot deficits, but even by that measure, the window is small. Schwartzel came from four shots back over the closing 18 holes to land his prize, but that’s the biggest deficit overturned in the last decade. If you’re not within a choking leader’s triple bogey going into the Sunday at Augusta, you’re going to need something extremely rare for the right to be deciding the menu at the Champions Dinner of 2016.
Speith is -14 going into the third round. That’s five shots clear of Charley Hoffman and seven clear of Rose, Johnson and Casey. Clearly this is going to need a choke that makes Rory McIlroy’s 2011 Masters blow-up seem like a minor tickle.