published Saturday, April 7th, 2012

18th hole at Augusta National especially challenging

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Innocently known as Holly, the 18th hole at Augusta National played as a beast on Friday for most of the second round of the Masters.

“It’s playing like a par-5,” Brandt Snedeker said of the 465-yard, uphill par-4. “I drove it well and I hit 3-wood in, and with the wind whipping around the top of the trees, it’s tough.”

The scores — or are they scars? — add teeth to the claims about the 18th’s bite.

After lashing Henrik Stenson with a confidence-sapping quadruple-bogey 8 on Thursday, No. 18 was just as unforgiving Friday, and it did not make allowances for pedigree or previous performance.

A quick scan of the top of the Masters leaderboard tells the story that success at 18 was surviving.

Fred Couples made par to share the second-round lead at 5 under with Jason Dufner, who failed to save pare from the bunker right of the green.

First-round leader Lee Westwood carded a double bogey at No. 18 to fall to 4 under, where he’s among a star-studded group that includes Bubba Watson (par at 18), Rory McIlroy (par) and Sergio Garcia (bogey).

“It was playing really long today,” Dufner said. “I had 4-iron to the front hole location, which you don’t get very often. And 4-iron into that green, there’s not much space up there.

‘Unbelievable’ thrill

Randal Lewis, the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champ who made his Masters debut this week, finished at 15 over and missed the cut.

It was tough to tell by the way he was holding court on the shaded lawn underneath the historic oak outside the tradition-rich clubhouse at Augusta National.

“What an experience,” the 54-year-old financial adviser from Alam, Mich., said. “I got to play with Jose [Maria Olazabal], Tom [Watson], Phil Mickelson and Ian [Woosnam]. ... That’s, what? Eight green jackets right there.”

Lewis was less than thrilled with his play but overwhelmed by the week with the game’s best.

“It’s surreal. I mean, I don’t know how else to describe it,” he said. “This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime deal. It was unbelievable.

“I guess after a month goes by, I’ll stop thinking about the Masters every single day.”

Changing conditions

Dangerous storms never arrived Thursday, but a storm front brought a little rain Thursday night and left Augusta feeling more like Pebble Beach on Friday morning with chilly temps, a sunless sky and blustery winds.

The clouds burned off but the breezes remained all afternoon.

“The winds were crazy,” Snedeker said. “It’s really tough to pull a club.”

Both weather and course conditions are expected to change again today, when temperatures heat up and the fairways become drier.

Players likely will have fewer mud balls, but the greens may be less receptive. Then Sunday, it’s up to the tournament committee.

“It’s going to take a little while before it gets scary,” Jim Furyk said. “I can see tomorrow getting tougher Saturday. Then Sunday — Mother Nature controls some of it — but the golf tournament determines how much water they put on the golf course.”

Stallings ties biggies

Tennessee Tech graduate Scott Stallings shot a 5-over 77 on Friday and made the cut at a major for the first time in his fledgling career.

Stallings stands in 40th place at 3 over and made the cut in a major in just his second attempt. He’s tied with the likes of Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer.

Stallings qualified for the 2011 PGA Championship and the Masters after winning the Greenbrier Classic last summer.

Making the cut is a nice consolation for a round that he said should have been much better.

“I did not putt well. I could have saved a lot of shots today,” Stallings said. “I had nine mud balls today.

“You have to hang in there and hang in there even if it’s not going well.”

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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