AUGUSTA, Ga. — A record-setting five golfers tied for the 36-hole lead at the Masters. A total of 11 — mostly the world’s finest — are within two strokes of the lead. That means it’s time for a re-ranking of the potential Green Jacket winners here before they tee off Saturday afternoon.
In reverse order:
11. Justin Harding (-6)
With no disrespect to the former Lamar University golfer, seven wins on the Sunshine Tour don’t quite provide the same kind of resume his competitors bring to this fight. Having said that, Harding has thrown out a pair of 69’s and been unflappable so far.
10. Louis Oosthuizen (-7)
It has been nine years since his major win at the British although he lost the playoff here to Bubba Watson in 2012. Has not had a top-10 finish at the Masters since then. A long shot in this group.
9. Ian Poulter (-5)
If this were a Ryder Cup, you’d probably bump him up to about No. 3, but last year’s Houston Open stands as his only stroke-play victory in a U.S. tournament. It’s hard to win your first major at 43.
8. Xander Schauffele (-6)
Looked like a candidate to miss the cut when he was 2 over par after a first-hole bogey Friday. Tossed in eight birdies to put himself in contention. He is loading up in top-10 major finishes very early in his career.
7. Jon Rahm (-5)
Late in Friday’s round, one broadcaster said, “Jon Rahm just not in a good place right now.” He was 5 under and two shots off the lead where he remains. You always feel he’s about to blow a gasket (and sometimes he does), but he made remarkable pars to hold it together and remain in the hunt in the second round.
6. Adam Scott (-7)
One of only two men in this elite group with a Green Jacket, so
5. Dustin Johnson (-6)
The No. 2 player in the world is a shot off the lead and yet there isn’t much of a sense here that he’s about to win his first Masters. Maybe that sense is wrong. Feels surprising that he has never shot 10 under par at Augusta.
4. Jason Day (-7)
Some years have passed since he finished second and third here (2011, 2013) but even though he nearly withdrew with back issues, he looked as comfortable as ever on Friday. Just settling down and not swinging from the heels on each shot may have had a calming effect.
3. Tiger Woods (-6)
We can call him the other 43-year-old playing with Poulter Saturday. Obviously made an unbelievable birdie through the trees at 14 Friday before being clipped by a reckless security guard. Last year he led the British Open on Sunday and finished second to Brooks Koepka at the PGA, so it’s crazy to think he’s not going to grab a 15th major in the near future. Fans will go wild if it happens here.
2. Brooks Koepka (-7)
The man has won three of the last seven majors and is tied for the lead in this one. Why pick against him? He will learn from his mistake made Friday (don’t hit it left on No. 2 where he made double bogey) and will continue to split fairways and go for flags here.
1. Francesco Molinari (-7)
He won the British Open, he was the best player in Europe’s overwhelming victory in the Ryder Cup and clearly wants to establish himself as one of the finest golfers in the world. Has not made a bogey since the 11th hole Thursday, a 25-hole streak of consistency that will serve him well this weekend.