Augusta, GA – Scotty Scheffler traveled outside Augusta National with both hands in his pockets as if he had just finished a casual tour of the house in the late afternoon.
The teachers were anything but Friday.
The winds blowing through the Georgia pines gave many golfers all they could bear, a relentless battle from the tee to the green. Then Schaeffler made it even tougher.
The 5-under 67 owner matched the day’s low score and gave him a five-shot lead, equaling a Masters record after 36 holes. The last four players went on to take five shots up until the end of last week to win. The only exception was Harry “Lighthorse” Cooper in 1936.
That brought about more than just ignoring the No. 1 player in the world.
Scheffler said, “I think I’m still playing against the golf course there, and there are a bunch of other guys out there. So I can’t really pay attention to them either way.”
Schaeffler beats them all, along with Augusta National that’s getting harder.
Adam Scott, who played on Scheffler’s group said, “You live on the knife edge every hole, honestly, and I’ve been playing with a guy who made it look easy. But that’s how he’s playing at the moment.”
In his first appearance as a new player in the world, Schaeffler seemed to be the part. He was ghost-free for the last 15 holes, played smart of the fairways and trusted every shot he took even when the winds were as strong as choppy.
Schaeffler, the 25-year-old Texas Longhorn, has won three of his previous five PGA Tour entries and doesn’t look like he’s sunk on the Augusta National stage.
Scheffler said, “I’m putting myself in my position, being in a position to win this golf course. I couldn’t ask for anything else after 36 holes. I feel like my game is in a good place. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and not overthink things.” .”
He was an 8-under-136, five shots ahead of defending champion Hideki Matsuyama (69), former champion Charles Schwarzl (69), former British Open champion Shane Lowry (68) and 18-hole leader Songjae M (74).
Former Masters Champion Dustin Johnson (73) led a group in 2-under 142, while another group included two-time Main Champion Colin Morikawa and former PGA Champion Justin Thomas, who played 67 games with Schaeffler in the low round of the day.
Two hours into a glorious, calm spring day in Augusta, the wind arrived with a bang and the players saved their dear lives. Scheffler could see sand exploding from the bunkers. Flags were torn. Dozens were on the rise.
Sergio Garcia said of fighting champion Canelo Alvarez, “I felt like I went 10 rounds with Canelo. That was after hard-earned 74.
Jordan Spieth hit two at Ray Creek and took a triple bogey at number 12. That was at least Friday, although he ended up missing when he committed a double bogey on day 18. Scott was trying to stay in the mix until he had a wedge spinning back into the water at 5 15, hit the next on the green and took a bogey triple.
Schaeffler had no such problems, even if he didn’t feel that way. “I definitely felt like I was in a fight today,” Scheffler said.
Scheffler got rid of his mistakes early on and started controlling two birds before taking the role. After a solid tackle from the right of the 11th green, he added two 12-footers at level 3 12 and a hard pitch from the right all over the 5th from 13th.
By then the winds had begun to calm down in the late afternoon, and the Scheffler had begun to pull up with two other birds making it an obvious and challenging target for the weekend.
And I think just a couple of months ago he didn’t have any wins on the PGA Tour.
Meanwhile, Thomas opened with a score of 76 and spent the rest of the day reflecting on what looked like a missed opportunity.
His 67th was crowned with three straight birds along the back nine.
“It’s very easy to come home now, and not only am I not, but I’m in a really good place this weekend,” Thomas said.
He was seven years behind, though he wasn’t a bit surprised that Schaeffler was able to publish such good runs to build a major lead.
“If I played the way I should be yesterday, I should be there with him,” Thomas said. “This place, I love it because you can make a lot of birds – even in conditions like this, if you plan your way around and know how to get around you can make a lot of birds. It shows you when you get that windy if you don’t have control of your ball .
“He’s obviously controlling everything at the moment based on the last couple of months, so I’m not too surprised,” Thomas added. “But yeah, I’d appreciate it if he’d stop going so far.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.