AUGUSTA — A former green jacket winner had a great finish to the second round at Augusta National Golf Club and is near the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend after not making much of an impact previously this season. While all that applies to 1992 Masters Tournament champion Fred Couples, the player with the best finish Friday was Angel Cabrera, who won the green jacket in 2009.
“For me Augusta is never easy. Never, ever easy,” Cabrera said via his translator. “The big difference was that the back nine I was hitting very well off the tee, leaving my second shots close, and I was able to make some birdies.”
That’s exactly what Cabrera did, finishing with a flourish to card a 69 to get him to 4-under for the tournament. Cabrera’s round went from steady to spectacular. After eight consecutive pars, the 43-year-old Argentinian birdied five of his final six holes. That spectacular flurry has him tied for fourth place, two strokes off the lead of Jason Day.
Cabrera, who also has a U.S. Open victory to his credit, said he’s at his best in pressure situations. Any round at Augusta National certainly qualifies.
“I’ve learned to play with a lot of pressure. It brings out the best in me,” said Cabrera, making reference to his two major championship victories. “I was very fortunate to play those two weeks very well. I was fortunate to pull out those two wins.”
Fortune favored Cabrera Friday, who avoided trouble with good tee shots. That eventually allowed him to capitalize on opportunities down the stretch.
“I did very well off the tee on my first shots and I was able to leave my second shots closer to the pin, so I was able to make some birdies,” said Cabrera, a former regular on the European Tour, who wasn’t fazed by Friday’s windy conditions in Augusta. “When the wind is tough, it gets tougher on this course. But I played with wind very much, I’m used to playing with the wind in Europe when I played in Europe. So I’m not going to say that this is an advantage necessarily for me, but I like playing with wind.”
Today’s forecast calls for 7 mph winds and Cabrera will play in the second to last group with Marc Leishman, the first-round co-leader. The pair will tee off at 2:35 p.m.
Par for the course for Bubba
Thanks to newly expanded cut limits at the Masters, Bubba Waston avoided the dubious distinction of not playing on the weekend the year after winning a green jacket. Even with the new regulations, that call for the top 50 and ties as well as all players within 10 shots of the lead to qualify for the cut, it wasn’t easy for Watson.
He had a rollercoaster round that featured four pars, seven birdies, six bogies and a double bogey. For one stretch, Watson went 11 holes with either a birdie, bogey or double bogey.
Ultimately, Watson carded a 73 that left him at 4-over 148, the number that just made the cut. The up-and-down round wasn’t anything new for the enigmatic star.
“I had tons of those. That’s what we call Bubba golf, “ said Watson, who pointed to putting as the culprit to the inconsistency and struggles. “I’ve never really – I’ve missed putts and people said I putted bad, but eight 3‑putts in two days is quite a bit. … So when you do that, you look at it, I’m 4‑over, without that I would be 4‑under, just two off the lead. It just comes down to the greens are slower than what we’re used to. I’m used to it being a lot more difficult and different pin placements, and the ball was just not rolling like I thought. So I left just about every putt short it seems like.”
Watson will be the first player out this morning. Because of the odd number of players that made the cut, last year’s Masters champ will be paired with an Augusta National marker when he tees off at 9:25 a.m.
All three players in the field who call South Carolina home made the cut for this weekend.
Dustin Johnson, a Dutch Fork High School alum who went to Coastal Carolina and now lives in Myrtle Beach briefly held the lead Friday. He got as low as 7-under, but a rough finish knocked him to 1-under at the end of the round, where he’s tied with Bill Haas.
The Greenville resident is also tied for 20th after an even-par round that included four bogies, two birdies and an eagle. While both Haas and Johnson can harbor thoughts of making a run for a green jacket, Lucas Glover is lucky to still be playing. Also a Greenville resident, as well as a Clemson Grad, Glover is 4-over for the tournament after carding 74 Friday.
“I don’t feel like I deserve to make the cut, but I am glad to be here,” said Glover.
Mixed results for past Masters
Watson was the only former Masters champion competing this year who had to sweat the cut out, but that didn’t mean there weren’t a few past winners who won’t add another green jacket to their wardrobe.
Seven of the 19 past winners in this year’s field failed to qualify for the weekend. Among those that didn’t make the cut were Larry Mize, Ian Woosnam, Tom Watson, Mike Weir, Craig Stadler, Mark O’Meara and Ben Crenshaw.
In addition to Watson and Cabrera, 10 other past champs made the cut, several in the hunt for another title this weekend. That list definitely includes Fred Couples, Tiger Woods, Bernhard Langer, Charl Schwartzel and Trevor Immelman – who are all in the top 20. Other former winners in the hunt include Zach Johnson, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sandy Lyle.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.