Analysis of the 2011 Masters at the halfway point

Some observations at the halfway point of the Masters:

x- Just when the world was ready to kick dirt on Tiger Woods’ grave, back he comes with a superb round of 6-under on Friday. The effort moved Woods to 7-under and within three shots of leader Rory McIlroy.

x- McIlroy has played brilliantly over the first two days, showing why many think he will win multiple majors before his career is through. But now comes the hard part: finishing strong. McIlroy has plenty of proven players on his tail – including Woods – so we’ll see how he holds up under those circumstances.

x- Who would have thought that the German player making the cut at Augusta would be Alex Cejka rather than Martin Kaymer?

x- Jason Day fired the round of the tournament with an 8-under 64 to put himself in sole possession of second place. Day has only one career PGA Tour victory (2010 Byron Nelson Championship).

x- Woods will be paired today with K.J. Choi, who has seven career PGA Tour wins but no majors. Choi has come close at Augusta a couple times, tying for fourth last year and taking third in 2004. And remember what happened the last time Woods played with a South Korean in a weekend pairing at a major?

x- Speaking of Y.E. Yang, he also is in position to contend this weekend. Although Yang didn’t make any noise Friday, he’s still at 5-under.

x- Not only did Woods boost himself into contention with a sizzling round Friday, but so did Lee Westwood, the Englishman who knocked Woods off his familiar No. 1 perch in the fall. Westwood fired a brilliant 67 to get to 5-under.

x- This weekend could be one of the more interesting at Augusta in quite some time. Besides the aforementioned players, others stars lurking within striking distance of McIlroy are former U.S. Open champ Geoff Ogilvy, young American sensation Rickie Fowler, venerable Fred Couples (1992 Masters champ), former PGA champ Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia (still seeking his first major) and 2011 Match Play champion Luke Donald.

x- Besides Kaymer, other notables who missed the cut: Tim Clark, Hunter Mahan, Lucas Glover, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Anthony Kim, Graeme McDowell, Retief Goosen and Louis Oosthuizen.

x- The media are supposed to remain neutral (even though most of them deep down are cheering for Woods), but if was allowed to cheer for someone to win The Masters, it would be Choi and/or Brandt Snedeker.

x- Prior to The Masters, listed several players to watch. Here’s how they are shaping up at the halfway point: Phil Mickelson (2-under), Mahan (our pick to win, cut), Westwood (5-under), Kaymer (cut), Nick Watney (even), Paul Casey (2-under), Goosen (cut), Aaron Baddeley (1-over), Yuta Ikeda (cut), Steve Marino (1-over), Woods (7-under).

x- Mickelson, everyone’s darling to win at Augusta (except, was stuck in neutral Friday. He followed a solid 2-under Thursday with an even-par second round. He’s eight shots behind McIlroy and certainly not out of it, but he has a lot of ground to make up. If he shoots another pedestrian round Saturday, forget it.

x- Continuing the South Korean theme, Kyung-tae Kim took a major step in his career by making the cut at his first Masters. In 2010, Kim, unbeknownst to many American golf fans, became the first Korean-born player to win the Japan Tour’s Order of Merit and just the second non-Japanese player to accomplish that in the tour’s history.

x- The biggest surprise and biggest disappointment of the 2011 Masters are easy: Biggest surprise, Day; biggest disappointment, Kaymer.

— Chuck Curti

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