Watson misses cut by 2 strokes at Augusta National
AUGUSTA, Ga.—Like Freddie Couples, Tom Watson knows all about turning back the clock.
He just couldn't do it again Friday at the Masters.
Less than three years after thrilling old guys everywhere by making a run at his sixth British Open title at 59, Watson had a chance to hang around with the kids for the weekend at Augusta National. He wasn't in the lead like Couples, but was on the cutline with two holes to play.
He bogeyed both 17 and 18 and finished at 7-over 151. The cut was 5 over, and the 63 players who made it were the most since 1992.
"It's disappointing," said Watson, 61. "It's very disappointing because I knew what I had to do and I didn't do it."
Watson said a bad drive did him in on 17, and he found mud off the tee on 18. He needed to carve his second shot around a tree, and "just didn't have that shot."
Asked if he took any consolation for playing so well when most guys his age were essentially done after the front nine the first day, Watson said, "I'd feel a lot better if I made the cut."
Among the others who suddenly found themselves with a free weekend were former champions Mike Weir, Jose Maria Olazabal and Larry Mize, all of whom joined Watson at 7 over. Bernhard Langer, who has two green jackets, finished at 8 over. Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa, who got a special exemption to the Masters, is headed home early after finishing at 9-over 153. Sandy Lyle, the 1988 champion, posted the worst score, a 20-over 164.
Randal Lewis, who at 54 was believed to be the oldest first-timer at Augusta National, also missed the cut. But the Mid-Amateur champion, a financial adviser from Alma, Mich., did break 80, shooting a 78 that left him at 15-over 159.
Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters winner, made the cut right on the number thanks to a birdie on 18. Kelly Kraft joined fellow amateurs Hideki Matsuyama and Patrick Cantlay after making a clutch bogey putt on 18.
"I knew I had to make it," Kraft said. "This is what I stayed an amateur for, to play in this. Now I get to play all four rounds, so it's even better."
EASY A: Hideki Matsuyama is raising expectations for amateurs.
Matsuyama, who won low amateur honors after tying for 27th last year, became the first amateur in 30 years to make a second straight cut at the Masters. Jim Holtgrieve did it in 1981 and 1982.
Matsuyama also posted the best score of the five amateurs in the field, a 1-over 145.
"I did make the cut last year, so it was maybe a little bit more nerves this year, kind of not knowing if I was going to make the cut," Matsuyama said through an interpreter. "So maybe a little bit more nerves this year."
Fellow amateurs Kelly Kraft and Patrick Cantlay also made the cut.
Matsuyama was one of the feel-good stories at Augusta National last year. A student at Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai, he was practicing in Australia when his city was hit by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast coast. He debated whether he should even come to the Masters, but decided playing well here was the best way he could help.
And play well he did. Matsuyama was the only amateur to make the cut, and his 68 on Saturday was the lowest by an amateur since James Driscoll's in the first round in 2001.
Matsuyama, who turned 20 in February, earned a return trip to Augusta by defending his title at the Asian Amateur.
"I had three goals before I came here, and the first one was to make the cut. The second one was to have a better score than I did last year. And the third one is to be in the top 16 and ties so that I can come back next year to the Masters," he said. "The first one I was able to clear today, so I'm going to work on those next two and hopefully get it done."
PLAYING THROUGH: Chez Reavie and Martin Laird played through the first group of the day. And they didn't even need to hit their drives into the threesome in front of them to get waved through.
Down to a twosome after Mark O'Meara withdrew just before the start of the first round, Reavie and Laird were the second group off Friday behind Sean O'Hair, Scott Verplank and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castro. The threesome knew Reavie and Laird had spent what must have felt like ages waiting between shots Thursday, and told rules officials they wouldn't object to the twosome playing through.
"I felt like they probably should have had them tee off first," O'Hair said. "It was just a courtesy thing."
Rules officials approached Reavie and Laird on the third hole, and Laird said, "I think I waited half a second before I said yes. It was an easy decision for both parties."
With O'Hair, Verplank and Fernandez-Castro on the green on the par-3 No. 4, Reavie and Laird hit up. They then putted out ahead of the threesome and moved along.
"Even if they played fast, if they looked back and saw us leaning on our bags, they might start rushing," Reavie said. "It was best for all of us to play through."
Playing through happens all the time at munis and even toney country clubs. But it's almost unheard of on the PGA Tour, let alone a major championship. Reavie said he's had it occur two other times, but those were because of delays caused by rules questions. Laird said he's seen groups play through when a ball is lost.
This, however, was a unique situation.
"It was smart," Laird said. "I'm glad they did it. It would have been stupid to leave us waiting there all day."
FEELING AT HOME: The first time Charles Howell III saw the Masters, he thought everyone from Augusta won, no one made a bad shot and the greens were easy.
He's learned a lot since he was 7.
Back at the Masters for the first time since 2008, Howell matched his best round at Augusta National with a 2-under 70 on Friday. He's at 2 under for the tournament heading into the weekend, three strokes behind leaders Freddie Couples and Jason Dufner.
"Of course it means a lot because I'm from here. But the Masters is the Masters for everybody," said Howell, who grew up in Augusta and still has family here. "It's not like it's a regular stop on the PGA Tour and I'm from there."
Despite growing up in the shadow of Augusta National, Howell has never fared well at the Masters. He's missed the cut three of the last five times he's played, never broken 70 and never finished better than a tie for 13th.
And instead of feeling as if he's coming, well, home, when he returns, he's never felt comfortable at Augusta National.
"It's a hard golf course," he said. "Some players like (Phil) Mickelson, I've heard him say a lot of times he feels great and really comfortable every time he gets to Augusta. And it's a place I've never been 100 percent at ease with yet."
But his luck may be changing.
He had the only bogey-free round of the day Friday, and finally earned some Masters crystal with his eagle on 15.
"That it's difficult and it takes a lot of patience," Howell said when asked what he's learned over the years. "You're not going to have many bogey-free rounds at Augusta National."
FAMOUS FRIENDS: NBA great Charles Barkley is colorful, outspoken and wildly entertaining.
Jason Dufner is ... not.
Despite their very different personalities, the Auburn grads have struck up a friendship over the last two years. They get together when they're both at Tigers football or basketball games, but Dufner hasn't been able to coax Barkley and his -- how shall we say it? unique -- swing, onto the course with him.
"We make a good combo," said Dufner, the co-leader after the second round of the Masters. "He's a little bit more out there and wears his emotions on his sleeve and tells people what he's got on his mind no matter the consequences."
Imagine how well that would go over at buttoned-up Augusta National.
The green jackets can rest easy, however. If Sir Charles has any plans to come cheer on Dufner, who had a share of a 1-shot lead going into the weekend, he hasn't shared them with his buddy. The two haven't even talked this week, Dufner said.
MUST-SEE TV: The first round of the Masters was a ratings hit.
ESPN's live telecast of the first round Thursday averaged 2.6 million viewers, according to fast nationals from the Nielsen Co., a 4 percent increase from last year. The 2.3 household rating was up 10 percent from last year.
Ratings measure the percentage of homes with televisions tuned into a program.