Wetterich & Clark lead at halfway
Padraig Harrington not only re-ignited his Masters hopes today, but gave himself the chance to create history.
Nobody has won at Augusta National after an opening 77 or an eight-stroke deficit after the first round, but a seven-birdie 68 - matched as the low score of the week so far by Ryder Cup team-mate Paul Casey only 10 minutes later - brought the Dubliner back into contention for a first major title.
Harrington was on the same one-over-par halfway mark of 145 as another of Ian Woosnam's heroes last September, David Howell (75), and also Welsh debutant Bradley Dredge (70).
They were in a tie for eighth place only three behind South African Tim Clark, last year's runner-up to Phil Mickelson, and American Brett Wetterich. They returned rounds of 71 and 73 respectively.
Justin Rose, joint overnight leader with Wetterich, was the last player to tee off in the second round and after a bogey five on the first parred the next eight, then dropped another shot on the 10th.
That left the 26-year-old, 36-hole leader on his last appearance three years ago before slumping to a Saturday 81, tied for third with home town player Vaughn Taylor.
Tiger Woods, like Howell, had a real rollercoaster ride, but from five over with four to go he birdied the 15th and 17th for a 74 that kept him in the hunt at three over.
Playing partner Casey's 68 was an 11-stroke improvement on his error-strewn opening day effort and it brought him back alongside the world number one, who still has a chance to make it five green jackets, a third major in a row and his 13th in all.
Harrington said: "I thought the course was an excellent test and set up very well. It was a good mental test - when to go for pins and when to play safe.
"You've got to give it your full attention. Yesterday I messed up a lot of simple shots." That included pitching into the lake on the 15th for a triple-bogey eight.
On his return to that hole he birdied and then put the icing on the cake with another at the last.
Woods, who ended his opening 73 with back-to-back bogeys, had four more in a front-nine 39.
He then found Rae's Creek both on the 12th and 13th, but got out of the two holes dropping only one shot, a 22-footer for a bogey being followed by a pitch-and-putt par.
Casey sank a 40-foot eagle putt on the long second, just after Luke Donald (also three over after a 74) had pitched in from 40 yards for another three. He then nearly aced the short 12th.
Howell, in a tie for third when he resumed, needed two attempts to get out of a greenside bunker on the first for a double bogey, then hooked horribly at the 575-yard second and had to take a penalty drop from the bushes en route to another six.
He fought back to stand level par with one to go, then hit another wild one into the trees and did well to drop only one shot.
"An interesting day," was his summation. "I'm not in control of the ball as I would like to be - I haven't been all year - but I'm not going to be a million miles away at the end of the day.
"I'm in the hunt again at Augusta, which is wonderful." He was in contention two years ago until he ran into a red-hot Woods in the third round.
"I dodged a bullet on the 18th. It could easily have been a six or a seven. Three over is not what you want on the Friday of a major, but the way I hit the ball beggars can't be choosers."
Woods hit his first two drives into bunkers. On the opening hole he then three-putted from just short of the green, while at the par-five second he still might have birdied, but missed an eight-foot chance.
Further bogeys, however, came on the fourth and seventh and while he did make a birdie at the uphill 570-yard next the ninth left him furious. He had to chip out sideways from the base of a tree, then spun his third off the front of the green.
Getting up and down from there was vital to his hopes and he did. In his runaway 1997 victory, of course, he started with a front-nine 40, then covered the inward half in 30 and his birdie at the 10th was ominous for the rest.
But there were more problems to come.
As for defending champion Phil Mickelson, he bogeyed the first, fifth and sixth to slump to seven over. With six to play he was still there, but it was still inside the cut mark because of the rule whereby anybody within 10 strokes of the lead qualifies.
Playing partner Richie Ramsay, the Scot who last August became the first British player to win the US Amateur since 1911, saw his hopes of making it through suffer a big blow when he took a double-bogey five on the short 12th.
Trying to become the first British amateur to make the halfway cut since Peter McEvoy in 1978, Ramsay stood eight over as a result.
Compatriot Colin Montgomerie was alongside him with two holes remaining, while although Darren Clarke outdid even Casey with a 12-shot improvement on day one 83-71 still added up to 10 over.