AUGUSTA — Former Georgia Russell Henley’s hoping for a blast on his birthday while fellow former Bulldog Bubba Watson will be battling on the bubble today at Augusta National Golf Club.
The second round of the Masters Tournament got underway Friday morning with Henley (E 72, tied-33) set to tee off at 11:07 a.m. in a group with 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize and Brian Gay (if that group — a Bulldog, a Yellow Jacket and a Gator — made it a full 18 holes yesterday without fighting, it should give hope for world peace) and Watson (3-over 75, tied-64) set to go off at 1:30 p.m. with Ian Poulter and amateur Steven Fox.
It started raining at about 10:30 a.m. — and there hasn’t been a report of lightning just yet — so tee times may vary.
Henley, who turns 24 on Friday, can count yesterday’s round, which featured three bogeys and three birdies, as an early birthday present. It landed him smack in the middle of the pack hunting to stay alive through the weekend, which isn’t anything to scoff at for a PGA Tour rookie making his Masters debut.
Henley had some struggles early yesterday — he bogeyed the first two holes and missed a roughly 6-foot eagle-putt opportunity on the par-5 No. 8 after reaching the green in two — but overcame it with some excellent recovery work and a long putt on No. 18 to wrap up his round.
If he continues to play that way today, it’ll be hard to top the gift he’ll be giving himself.
“I terms of my game, I hit a lot of great shots and didn’t come away with a birdie (on some of them) today,” Henley said Thursday after his round. “And I’m hitting the ball great, so I feel great about my game, and I feel like that’s probably what I should have shot today — a 72 — so I did get lucky on a few, but I felt pretty good about it.”
Watson has had a slightly different start to the week. He fought with himself on the greens, needing to three-putt three times, and complained that the greens were softer than usual and led him to leave some putts short. He’s not whining, though, and plenty of golfers, including Phil Mickelson, echoed his sentiments.
Speaking of Mickelson, Bubba’s 3-over 75 was the highest opening-round score for a defending champion since Lefty shot a 76 in 2007. For the record, Mickelson fought back and finished tied for 24th that year, though it was his worst performance in the tournament since he missed the cut a decade earlier.
Bubba said he wasn’t discouraged.
“I mean, it’s golf,” said Watson, whose lone birdie came on the par-5 second hole. “There’s going to be bad days and good days.”
Mike Weir, who won in 2004, is the most recent champion to miss the cut the following year.
The top 60 players and those within 10 shots of the leader after 36 holes will make the cut this year. Before the start of today’s round, Marc Leishman and Sergio Garcia shared the lead with 6-under 66s.
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