AUGUSTA • World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and third-ranked Justin Thomas figure it might take an unusual approach to win the Masters, playing aggressive and tossing out what might normally work.
The American duo were tied for the second-round lead on nine-under 135 with Australian Cameron Smith, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Spain’s world No. 2 Jon Rahm in a bunched-up leaderboard.
They were one stroke ahead of a another group of five – Asians Im Sung-jae of South Korea, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan, and Americans Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Reed.
Defending champion Tiger Woods, who had a 68 in the first round, carded a 71 in yesterday’s delayed second round and was four shots back of the leaders.
Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, seeking a green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam, had a 75 on Friday, then rebounded with a bogey-free 66 to revive his chances.
Results from the third round were not available by press time.
Pre-tournament favourite Bryson DeChambeau made the cut with nothing to spare, nine shots back after bogeying his final two holes. He later said he had been feeling “weird” and took a coronavirus test on Friday night as a precaution. It came back negative.
Johnson and Thomas hope to win the green jacket for a second Major – the former after his 2016 US Open title and the latter after his 2017 PGA Championship win.
Thomas has watched shots do unusual things the last two days, a mix of rain-softened conditions and autumn weather needing adaptation from lessons learnt over time at Augusta National.
“It’s a lot softer and a lot more scorable, but it really has just come down to executing a little bit better and minimising the mistakes,” said Thomas.
“You really throw all past knowledge out the window, as weird as that is.
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“It’s not like I’m the only one that has to adjust or may be uncomfortable in certain situations. The entire field is dealing with the same thing.”
Johnson, trying to become the first top-ranked Masters winner since Woods in 2002, is happy with his shotmaking. But he figures he must keep an attacking mindset even as the course becomes firmer after showers.
“We’re still going to have to go out,” said Johnson, the PGA Player of the Year after winning the Tour Championship.
“It’s going to be soft enough to where you’re going to have to attack the course and play aggressive and keep swinging like I am.
“I like where I’m at. I like my position heading into the weekend.”
He has been runner-up in three of the past six Majors and will focus on the par-five holes, hoping his long-driving game helps make the difference. “I’m happy with the way I’m swinging it, how I’m controlling the golf ball and everything I’m doing,” he said
Rahm was among 48 players who had to finish their second rounds and was prepared for a long weekend of golf with changing conditions.
“I came out today and it felt like a different putt with the greens being a lot faster,” he said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS