The Masters: Brooks Koepka opens up three-stroke lead before thunderstorm ends play

By Sports Desk April 07, 2023

Friday at Augusta National Golf Club was the Brooks Koepka show as the four-time major champion raced out to a three-stroke lead heading into the weekend at the Masters.

Koepka, who opened his week with a seven-under 65 to grab a share of the lead through 18 holes, followed it with a five-under 67 as part of the lucky morning wave who were able to get their rounds in before the harsh weather arrived.

After eight birdies and one bogey on Thursday, Koepka put together a bogey-free round with three birdies and an eagle as he continued his momentum from last week's victory at LIV Golf Orlando.

Jon Rahm was not so lucky to avoid the strong winds and rain arriving later in the day, but he handled it as well as anyone. He started his second round with seven consecutive pars, before birdieing the eighth and ninth to move to nine under right before his round was cut short.

The winds were blowing in with such force that multiple large trees were blown down in spectator areas, but luckily there were reported no injuries.

One further back from Rahm in outright third is 23-year-old amateur Sam Bennett, shooting his second 68 in a row as he bounced back from his first bogey of the week on the fourth hole to go four-under through his final 14.

Two-time major champion Collin Morikawa and top-10 talent Viktor Hovland (through 10 holes) are tied for fourth at six under, and while Jordan Spieth and Jason Day are still in the hunt at five under, Day will feel he let a golden opportunity slip.

Through 14 holes, Day was in outright second at nine under, but he finished with a double-bogey on 15, a bogey on 16 and another bogey on 18 to slip into a tie for sixth, seven shots off the pace.

In more strong representation from the LIV Golf players, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Joaquinn Niemann are all in the tie for 10th at four under.

Shot of the day

Cameron Smith started his second round with three bogeys from his first seven holes, but his last hole before play was cancelled was one to remember.

On the par-five eighth, Smith found the bunker with his tee shot, but instead of laying up he opted for the aggressive route and hit his fairway wood, trickling its way onto the side of the green and feeding back towards the hole to set up an eagle.

A little birdie told me…

Rookie Bennett made it to the end of his round in solo second at eight under, and if Rahm slips up, Bennett could become the first amateur since 1958 to hold solo second heading into the weekend.

In fact, his score is the second-best 36-hole mark by an amateur at Augusta, bettered only by Ken Venturi in 1956 (nine under), and they are the only amateurs to ever reach the weekend here with a figure better than three under.

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    Aberg, Pavon and Cantlay were among the leaders as Friday's action drew to a close, with Bryson DeChambeau one shot ahead of McIlroy, alongside Thomas Detry.

    DeChambeau had a typically eventful round by mixing four bogeys with five birdies, the last of which saw him finish with a flourish on the 18th.

    Detry made a splash as he carded an impressive 67. At one stage, the Belgian held the lead after reaching six-under for the day through 14 holes, though he slipped back slightly with two bogeys in his last four. 

    Hideki Matsuyama went one better than Detry with a four-under 66 at Pinehurst No.2 to ensure he sits in the top 10 heading into the weekend, one shot behind McIlroy.

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    One of the shots of the day saw Francesco Molinari avoid the same fate, though, as he sank a hole-in-one on the 18th when he required an eagle to make the weekend.

    PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele is at one-under after posting a 69, but it was a tougher day for world number one Scottie Sheffler, who faces an anxious wait to see whether he made the cut after ending Friday five-over. 

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