AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - Patrick Reed is leading a major championship for the first time, and his confidence is so high that he can only see what’s ahead of him.
Maybe that’s just as well at this Masters.
Reed started and finished the front nine with three straight birdies. He answered Marc Leishman’s bold shot for an eagle by polishing off another run of three straight birdies. It added to a 6-under 66 and a two-shot lead over Leishman going into the weekend at Augusta National.
Right behind them are five major champions.
Nowhere near him are Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the two names that generated so much of the buzz for a Masters that otherwise is living up to expectations.
None of it matters to Reed, who is going after his first major.
“Everyone wants to win, and if you don’t believe you can win them, then you probably shouldn’t be playing in them,” Reed said. “I believe that if I play the golf that I know how to play that I can win majors. . . . There’s a lot of holes left, and I just need to go out and keep to my game plan, play some solid golf and just go out and continue shooting in the 60s and see if it gets the job done.”
Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson still have a say in that.
Woods and Mickelson probably don’t.
Woods hit one shot into a cluster of magnolia trees and another into Rae’s Creek. He didn’t make a birdie until the 13th hole and had to settle for a 3-over 75, leaving him 13 shots behind. No one has ever won the Masters when trailing by more than eight shots going into the weekend.
“I’m going to have to shoot a special weekend and I need help,” Woods said. “I’m not in control of my own destiny.”
Mickelson smacked a shot into the trees trying to escape a forest and made triple bogey, deposited a tee shot into Rae’s Creek on No. 12 for a double bogey and shot a 79, matching his worst score at Augusta National. He started the day four shots out of the lead. He ended the day making the cut on the number.
Even without them, the show is just getting started.
Reed was a runner-up at the PGA Championship last summer, though he played the final hole without a chance to win. His best performance on the big stage has been in the Ryder Cup.
“Going to treat it just like another day, go out and try to do what I’ve been doing and stick to my game plan and try to make some more birdies,” Reed said.
He was at 9-under 135.
Stenson (70) was four shots behind. McIlroy (71) is off to his best 36-hole start in seven years and is looking as poised as ever to capture the fourth leg of the career Grand Slam. Spieth lost his two-shot lead on the first hole and was on the verge of getting left behind until he made a key par putt to close out the front nine with a 40, and then salvaged a 74 to join McIlroy just five shots behind.
Hideki Matsuyama carded a 1-under-par 71 on Friday to sit nine strokes back.
Matsuyama made four birdies and three bogeys to advance with a two-day total of 1-under.
“It was a tough day but it felt like I managed,” said Matsuyama, who shot a 1-over 73 in the first round.
“Since it seems like the weather will be bad tomorrow, I would like to adjust and give it my best.”
Satoshi Kodaira, who was five strokes off the pace after the first round of his debut Masters, shot six bogeys over four birdies for a 1-over total and fell into a tie for 23rd.
“I didn’t know what the qualifying line was, so I just concentrated on playing. I just tried to birdie,” Kodaira said.