AUGUSTA, Ga. – After an opening-round 75, Ernie Els looked like a prime candidate to join the convoy of major champions heading out of town at the Masters ahead of the weekend.
While defending champion Phil Mickelson shot 72 for a 142 total, Martin Kaymer, the PGA champion and world’s No. 1 ranked player, as well as two of the three other major winners last year – Graeme McDowell (U.S. Open) and Louis Oosthuizen (British) – all finished on the wrong side of the cut line at 145.
Not Els. He followed an eagle at the par-5 13th with consecutive birdies for a back-nine 34 and a round of 70 Friday that landed him right on the line.
Fellow South African and major winner Retief Goosen wasn’t as fortunate, despite a promising start. He started the tournament by knocking his approach at No. 1 into the hole for an eagle, but shot 78 in the second round for a 148 total.
NO PENALTY: Ryan Moore is in the red, in part because officials determined he was also in the clear.
Moore birdied the par-5 13th. But his ball moved before one of his shots, and there was a question of whether Moore had already taken his stance. That would have been a two-stroke penalty.
Officials determined that Moore had not taken his stance, and the birdie stood. He finished with a 73 that left him at 1 under for the tournament.
BAD HOLE: The ninth hole made Nathan Smith and Peter Uihlein look like the amateurs they are.
Bad second shots left both in the fairway of No. 1, the next hole over. Smith’s landed in the crosswalk, just as defending Masters champion Phil Mickelson and his group were teeing off.
“Exactly what you want to have going on. Here comes the world, here comes Phil over the hill,” said Smith, a three-time winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Mickelson has spent more than his fair share of time in the woods and in the rough – he’ll be picking pine straw out of his socks for days after his wayward drive on 17 – but that didn’t stop him from giving Smith grief.
“He asked me if that was my drive,” Smith said. “I said, yeah, sure.”
Uihlein, the U.S. Amateur champ who was paired with Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy, was a little kinder, running ahead of the group to give Smith an encouraging hug. He might have been better off saving those well-wishes for himself. Uihlein blistered his second shot on No. 9 so badly it landed about 25 yards in front of the No. 1 tee.
“I was hoping to make the cut and didn’t do that, didn’t play well. And I didn’t hit my irons very good,” said Uihlein, who finished at 5 over. “You’ve got to be very precise out here with the irons, and I just wasn’t quite ready for it.”
GUIDED TOUR: Charl Schwartzel might have to give Jack Nicklaus a cut of his earnings this week.
The six-time Masters champion gave Schwartzel invaluable advice before the South African’s first appearance at Augusta National last year, talking him through the course.
Nicklaus “took me through every single hole the way he used to play it,” Schwartzel said. “You can’t get much better advice than that. … I was in such awe.”
Schwartzel has put the advice to good use, shooting par or better in four of his six rounds at the Masters. His 71 on Friday left him at 4 under, six strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy.