Mcllroy set to strike

Mcllroy set to strike

Dufner, Couples share lead; Woods disappoints

Rory McIlroy moved in for the kill and Tiger Woods was left kicking his club in frustration during a Masters second round that ended with Americans Jason Dufner and Fred Couples sharing the lead. 

A log-jammed leaderboard, featuring five players one stroke off the pace, sets up a fascinating weekend for the first major of the year with 52-year-old Couples, winner here 20 years ago, cast in the role of nostalgist’s underdog. 

McIlroy, world number two and US Open champion, shot a composed two-under-par 69 to move within a stroke of the lead but the man he was presumed to be duelling with at Augusta -- four-times Masters winner Woods -- came close to imploding. Woods pushed his tee shot right into the bunker on the 16th and hurled his club to the floor before kicking it away in a flash of anger and frustration. 

There was no shortage of grimacing and muttering from a tired and unhappy looking Woods as he battled through the final holes, struggling but avoiding a total meltdown that would have left him missing the cut. 

After opening with birdies on two of his first three holes, Woods had five bogeys the rest of the way and posted a three-over 75 that left him eight shots back of the leaders and three shots from missing the cut. But the raw data does not capture the disappointing display from a player who, fresh off his first PGA Tour win in 30 months, was made bookmaker’s favourite this week. 

McIlroy started the day four shots off the pace but the Northern Irishman made a solid start with three birdies on his first seven holes, including a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-three fourth. 

He briefly had a share of the lead, after a birdie on the 15th, but slipped back after he bogeyed the 17th hole.  

Spain’s Sergio Garcia looked set to join the American duo atop the leaderboard but bogeyed the par-four 18th to finish at four-under 68, a shot off the pace along with Lee Westwood (72), Louis Oosthuizen (72), McIlroy and Bubba Watson (71). 

Couples mixed seven birdies with two bogeys for a five-under-par 67, matching the second round score he shot at Augusta National in 1992 when he won the Masters. 

“I feel like I know every inch of the course. I’ve played 28 years here and today was really a magical day,” said Couples. “I’m going to be right there with everybody Saturday and Sunday, well, Saturday for sure.” 

Among those missing the cut were nine former Masters champions and reigning British Open champion Darren Clarke. Australian Jason Day, joint runner-up last year, withdrew from the event with an ankle injury after seven holes of his second round. 

Leading second round scores (US unless mentioned otherwise): 139: Jason Dufner (69, 70), Fred Couples (72, 67); 140: Louis Oosthuizen (SA, 68, 72), Lee Westwood (Gbr, 67, 73), Sergio Garcia (Esp, 72, 68), Rory McIlroy (Gbr, 71, 69), Bubba Watson (69, 71); 141: Paul Lawrie (Gbr, 69, 72), Matt Kuchar (71, 70), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Esp, 69, 72); 142: Ben Crane (69, 73), Charles Howell III (72, 70), Vijay Singh (Fiji, 70, 72), Peter Hanson (Swe, 68, 74), Phil Mickelson (74, 68), Aaron Baddeley (Aus, 71, 71), Henrik Stenson (Swe, 71, 71), Nick Watney (71, 71).  

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