AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Patrick Reed is halfway home to his first major championship.
He got there by mostly staying out of trouble at daunting Augusta National and mastering the four par 5s.
Reed shot a 6-under 66 in the second round Friday and moved to 9-under 135 for the tournament. He takes a two-shot lead over Marc Leishman into Saturday’s third round, which could be affected by rain.
Forecasts call for steady showers all day, the kind of weather that should soften up what had become a hard and fast test.
The way Reed has played, it’s doubtful even Mother Nature can slow him down.
“I believe if I play the golf I know how to play, I can win majors,” said Reed, a 27-year-old Texan who ended his college career 3 miles down the road at Augusta State. “I need to stick to my game plan.”
Reed and Leishman will be the final pairing Saturday, scheduled to tee off at 2:30 p.m.
Reed grabbed the lead thanks mostly to being the only player in the field to birdie all eight par 5s in the first two rounds. He also needed just 51 putts through 36 holes.
“I kept myself out of trouble and allowed my putter to do the work,” Reed said.
Leishman kept it close. He boldly took on a high risk when he hooked a hooded 5-iron around the trees and barely over the water on the par-5 15th to about 6 feet for an eagle that got him to 7 under.
Right behind them? Five major champions, for starters.
Henrik Stenson (70) was four shots behind. Rory 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. Jordan 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.
Looming is Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world, who made a 45-foot par putt on the 16th to atone for several birdie putts in the 10-foot range he missed. Johnson had a 68 and was six shots behind, along with PGA champion Justin Thomas, who had a 67.
Eleven of the 17 players still under par at the halfway point can be found among the top 20 in the world.
They’re all chasing Reed, and probably need to play the longest holes well to even keep pace.
“The par 5s are huge around here to be able to pick up ground on,” Reed said. “You’re not going to shoot a low score if you don’t.”
Some other things to know heading into Saturday’s third round:
Tiger Woods made the cut at his first Masters in three years. He has some mixed feelings about where he’s at.
He shot a three-over 75 in the second round and is 4 over heading into the weekend. The 75 matched his second-worst score at the Masters and left him 13 shots off the lead.
Woods struggled with distance control Friday in difficult conditions and lamented a number of close misses on greens.
He said he didn’t hit his irons very good at all, adding that he “didn’t control distances, shapes or anything.”
Still, Woods was mostly pleased with how he’s played in his first major since the 2015 PGA Championship.
“Six months ago, I didn’t know if I was going to play again. It’s incredible. Just so thankful have this opportunity to be able to play golf again.”
Woods knows he needs a “special weekend” and some help to get back in contention.
Fred Couples, 58, Bernard Langer, 60, and Vijay Singh, 55 — three guys who play the PGA Tour Champions — proved it pays off to know your way around Augusta National.
All three of them shot 2 over in the second round and made the cut at golf’s first major.
Couples is 11 shots off Reed’s pace heading into the weekend. Langer is 13 back, and Singh is 10 behind.
Couples made the cut at the Masters for the 30th time, tying Gary Player for the second most in tournament history. Only six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus (37) made more cuts at Augusta National.
The last two Masters champions won’t be playing on the weekend.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia and 2016 winner Danny Willett missed the cut.
Willett finished the second round with consecutive bogeys, missing out by two strokes.
Garcia’s reign was essentially over when he wrote a double-digit number on his scorecard in the opening round Thursday. The Spaniard and new father hit five consecutive balls into the water at the par-5 15th.
Garcia seemed to spend much of Friday going through the motions. He struggled to a 78 that included dumping another ball in the water at No. 11 and ended up at 15-over 159.
BUTLER CABIN INVITES
Garcia will be around to be part of the championship celebration at Butler Cabin, where he will put a green jacket on the 2018 champ. Doug Ghim will join him inside.
The 21-year-old Ghim was the only amateur to make the cut. He got into the Masters thanks to a runner-up finish in the U.S. Amateur. The low amateur also gets invited to the ceremony at Butler Cabin.
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