There is a cavalcade of adjectives that could describe the first half of the 2013 Masters, but none better than historic.
That's easy to say about everything at Augusta National. Augusta and the Old Course at St. Andrews are probably the only two courses in the world that can evoke deep-seated feelings from every player on the course, and that showed up in the second round.
Facing torrential downpours for much of the morning hours, the scores went through the roof at Augusta National on Friday. The first round saw two golfers hit the six-under marks with their opening round; the second saw just one golfer even reach a score of 68. The course weeded out those who couldn't cut it, leaving an eclectic field of players remaining.
A pentagenarian, Fred Couples is just one shot behind the leader. Barely a teenager, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan, became the youngest player in modern history to make a major championship cut. And leader Jason Day has his first 36-hole lead at a major in his young career.
Dispersed throughout Saturday's pairings, the third round should be an exciting day of golf. With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of Saturday's pairings along with some predictions about how the round will shake out.
Pairings and Tee Times for Saturday
|9:25 a.m.||Bubba Watson (solo)|
|9:55 a.m.||Thorbjorn Olesen and Tianlang Guan|
Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney
Matt Kuchar and Bill Haas
Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson
Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel
Bernhard Langer and Sergio Garcia
Tiger Woods and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
Justin Rose and K.J. Choi
David Lynn and Lee Westwood
Adam Scott and Jason Dufner
Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker
Marc Leishman and Angel Cabrera
Jason Day and Fred Couples
Via CBS Sports
Most Intriguing Saturday Pairings
Thorbjorn Olesen and Tianlang Guan (9:55 a.m. ET)
A good cue of just how much the mainstream golf fan cares about the Tianlang Guan story will happen on Saturday. The 14-year-old sensation will be one of just three groups teeing off before noon, none of which will only be shown on the Masters' official website. CBS' broadcast won't start until the afternoon, at which point this group will pretty much have its day wrapped up.
It will be interesting to see how large of a gallery Guan brings by himself, seeing as how much fervor was raised during his second round on Friday. When Guan was penalized a stroke for playing too slowly, the reaction from social media was fierce.
Guan is the youngest player ever to reach a Masters weekend, but he failed to record a birdie in his second round, parring 15 holes and bogeying three (if you count the stroke penalty).
There may be no golfer in the world who has ever deserved more praise for being four over par heading into a major tournament weekend.
One almost has to feel bad for Thorbjorn Olesen. The 23-year-old Danish golfer is making his first Masters weekend as well, and he did so despite still suffering from the aftereffects of a car accident. He had been almost completely unable to practice in the lead-up to Augusta, having withdrawn from the Shell Houston Open after being diagnosed with whiplash.
Olesen recovered brilliantly from a six-over round of 78 to shoot two under on Friday. The gallery will be coming to see Guan; no one can dispute that. But if Olesen can impress and card a solid score, he might be able to add to his fanbase. And the paycheck for a solid score wouldn't be half-bad, either.
Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel (1:25 p.m. ET)
We've reached the moment of truth for McIlroy at Augusta. Over the past two years, the 23-year-old Northern Irishman has come into the weekend a combined 14-under par. On Saturday and Sunday, McIlroy has imploded in each of the past two Masters to shoot 15 over. Only once in those four rounds of golf did McIlroy even shoot better than a 76.
While it would be unfair to call McIlroy Sergio Garcia-esque considering the major championships sitting on his mantle, one has to wonder if the former world No. 1 can handle the Augusta spotlight. He's looked fine over the past two days and navigated difficult course conditions to card a 70 on Friday, but it will be more than intriguing to see if he can keep that momentum.
One of the players who has most benefited from McIlroy's weekend hiccups has been Schwartzel. The 28-year-old South African won in 2011 when McIlroy carded his infamous 80 after coming into the final day with a four-stroke lead.
That should give this matchup an interesting dynamic from a psychological sense. We've already seen McIlroy melt down once in a fit of petulance this year at the Honda Classic, lending credence to the notion that he's fragile.
We have a 75 percent confirmation over the past two years that he can't handle the pressure of a Masters weekend. Whether that becomes a minor blip or an early career-defining trend will be on the line Saturday and Sunday.
Tiger Woods and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (1:45 p.m. ET)
If either Woods or Fernandez-Castano loses the tournament by one or two strokes, they will probably wonder what would have happened had things gone better down the stretch on Friday.
UPDATE: Saturday, April 13, 10 a.m. ET by Paul Mueller
Tiger's road to his fifth green jacket just got a little tougher, as early Saturday morning, Augusta officials determined that he took an illegal drop on hole No. 15 Friday. He was penalized two strokes, dropping him from three-under par to one-under par. He's now five strokes off the leader, Jason Day.
---End of Update---
For nearly Tiger's entire second round, he was in a commanding position. Five-under par for the tournament when he hit the turn, Woods was a part of the multi-headed monster atop the leaderboard and seemingly on his way to carding a round in the mid-60s.
Then putts stopped dropping. Lengthy knockdowns on hole Nos. 5 and 7 became misses as his round went along. The Tiger that came into the Masters as the second-best putter on the entire PGA Tour was nowhere to be found, instead morphing into a guy who's averaging 2.5 putts per green in regulation heading into the weekend.
Luckily, he was striking the ball well enough to make those two-putts be pars for the most part—and then awful luck struck him on the 15th hole.
Woods had put himself in solid position to birdie the par-five 15th, striking a solid drive to set up an approach from a manageable distance. And then Woods' approach smacked off the pin and went crashing into the water. He bogeyed the hole and then finished with another to finish at three under for the tournament.
Once atop the leaderboard, Woods now has work to do if he wants to capture his fifth green jacket.
The same can be said for Fernandez-Castano, who this weekend will be vying to become the fifth Spaniard to win the Masters. He shot an opening-round 68 and was in a great position to be within striking distance of the lead late into his 18 holes on Friday.
But just like Woods, Fernandez-Castano could not close the deal. He bogeyed Nos. 17 and 18 to finish two over par for the day. The 32-year-old still has to be happy with his standing coming into this weekend considering he finished at 14 over a year ago, his first career trip to Augusta.
Now he'll get the chance to see what it's like to play against the greatest golfer in history on a major championship weekend. It's hard to know whether to envy or pity Fernandez-Castano.
Jason Day and Fred Couples (2:45 p.m. ET)
It's hard to call Jason Day being atop a major championship leaderboard a complete shock. Sure, it's his first time leading one of golf's four biggest tournaments through 36 holes, and he's ranked just 36th in the world heading into this weekend.
But he also strung together two consecutive second-place finishes in major championships as a 23-year-old back in 2011. The talent has always been there; completely harnessing it has just been the problem.
Based on what we saw from Day on Friday, he's definitely scratching the surface again at Augusta. Taking advantage of the softer course conditions, Day carded a four-under score of 68, which was the best on a day when many went high. He one-putted 10 different times, carding six birdies against two bogeys en route to being alone atop the leaderboard at six under overall.
It's impossible to expect Day to replicate his performance on Saturday. The tees will be tougher, and one-putting 10 times just doesn't happen twice. But by carding such a good score on Friday, Day gave himself more than enough cushion to be in contention on Sunday.
Couples being just one stroke behind Day isn't that shocking, either. This is his third straight year being five under through the first 36 holes at Augusta, and he finished sixth back in 2009. If you'll allow me to make the worst pun ever, Couples is a master of the Masters.
What will be intriguing is whether Couples can keep it up. He faded a bit down the stretch in each of the past two Masters tournaments, finishing outside the Top 10 after being a weekday leaderboard fixture.
If Couples somehow sticks around another day, he may eclipse Guan as the best story of the weekend. At 53, Couples would be the oldest player to win a major championship in history and would eclipse Jack Nicklaus' Masters record by right around seven years.
Predictions for Saturday's Final Leaderboard
|1||Jason Day (-8)|
|2||Angel Cabrera (-7)|
Adam Scott (-6)
Tiger Woods (-6)
Brandt Snedeker (-6)
Rory McIlroy (-5)
Fred Couples (-5)
Marc Leishman (-4)
Matt Kuchar (-4)
Jason Dufner (-4)
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