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Brooks Koepka set the pace before bad weather halted Friday’s action
Jon Rahm is the leading chaser and has holes still to play in his second round
Drama as trees are felled in the wind, patrons escape injury
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Before bad weather forced an early end to Friday’s action, leaving the late starters with the back nine to complete in their second rounds, Brooks Koepka had set a sensational pace.
The four-time major championship winner arrived in Augusta fresh off a win last week on LIV, he was reputed to be keen to make a point this week, and so far he has.
He’s carded 65-67 to hit the clubhouse on 12-under for the week which leaves him four shots clear of the amateur phenom Sam Bennett, six ahead of Collin Morikawa, and seven clean of Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, and Jason Day.
These golfers are, however, just those who have signed their cards for round two.
Jon Rahm is 2-under through nine holes of his second lap and three shots in arrears of Koepka, Viktor Hovland is 1-over through 10 and tied with Morikawa on the live leaderboard, and Cameron Young has the back nine to come while he sits alongside Spieth, Burns and Day.
More bad weather is expected: It will definitely be cold on Saturday, it might be stormy, heavy rain is forecast and possibly high wind also.
Given the collapsed trees late Friday - it was a miracle no one was hurt - it is likely that the club will avoid any chance of any repeat.
A Monday finish is on the cards.
Let’s remind ourselves of the key factors that drive victory at Augusta National.
There is course form: No rookie has won since 1979, nine of the last 10 winners made the cut at the tournament in the year before their win and all of those ten had a top 40 finish in his course log book.
There is quality: All of the last 10 winners was ranked top 25 in the world, nine of them had contended in a major in the year before their win and eight of them had a win in their last six starts (one of the exceptions had been second in that period).
And there is the game: All 10 were sitting inside the top 30 of the season’s Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green rankings and nine were in the top 40 for Par-5 Scoring.
Now let’s look at what happens during the Masters.
In the 21st century (23 tournaments) only one winner (Tiger Woods in 2005) was not T15th or better after 18 holes and all 23 were T12th or better after the cut.
And what of Strokes Gained stats? In 2021 only five men ranked top 20 for Off the Tee, Approach and Around the Green, in 2022 only four men achieved the feat. Both times the winner was among them.
It has been vital that the entire tee-to-green game is solid and that no part of it was ailing.
Given the above criteria who is currently in shape to triumph?
Koepka missed the cut at Augusta last year, had poor returns in the majors, and sits outside the top 100 in the world rankings.
That latter situation is LIV-related but he might also not fit the criteria given his form throughout the last 18 months.
The trends much prefer Rahm.
The Spaniard opened with a four-putt double bogey on Thursday but since then he has been supreme. He played the last 17 holes of his first round in 9-under and was solid over the front nine on Friday.
He might need to stand tall when he returns to complete his second round - and might be hoping for a complete cancellation of Saturday’s play - but he has it in him.
He’s also always alive to golfing history and especially Spanish golfing history.
He has already invoked the great Severiano Ballesteros, saying after his opening error: “I remembered Seve's quote, here at the Masters, when he four-putted and said ‘I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.’ I thought, just move on to the next hole. I carried a little bit of that energy into the tee shot on two, hit it about ten yards further than I usually do, and moved on with my day.”
The last man to win a Masters on a Monday? It was Ballesteros. Rahm will know.
Back him at +210 with FanDuel Sportsbook.
If anyone can creep up on those currently tied sixth or better it might be the Irishman Shane Lowry.
He is level-par through 13 holes of his second round and 4-under for the tournament.
His putter has been cold so far but, of all golfers in the top 20 on the leaderboard, his long game best fits that long game in-play trend.
He was third at the Masters last year and is a solid major championship operator.
Moreover, he won the Open in bad weather so that won’t unduly bother him (that win also came after Rory McIlroy crashed out, as he looks like doing this week too).
Lowry is +5500 at bet365.
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Tournament: The Masters
Location: Augusta National GC, Georgia
Date: THURSDAY APR. 6 - SUNDAY APR. 9
How to watch: SATURDAY 3-7 p.m. ET (CBS), SUNDAY 2-7 p.m. ET (CBS). And all four days on Sky Sports.
Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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