AUGUSTA, GA. – The hand-operated scoreboards at Augusta National do not care whether you putt cross-handed or cross-eyed, whether you hit driver or 3-wood, or which continent you call home.
Friday at the Masters was proof. By the end of the second day, the four players tied for the lead at 9 under included a Mexican, an Australian, a South Carolinian and a Kentuckian.
Trailing them by a shot were a Californian, a South Korean, a Spaniard and a Japanese player.
At 7 under were three players from the UK, one from South Africa and one from Taipei.
And none of them was named Tiger, Bryson or Phil.
Setting up another dramatic weekend at the Masters, the morning wave of players finishing the rain-delayed first round took advantage of wet greens, and the afternoon wave found them suddenly slippery, leading to a logjam at the top of the leaderboard and promising a weekend free-for-all.
If there are favorites among the leaders, they would be Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, who are tied with Abraham Ancer and Cameron Smith at 9 under.
Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm and Sungjae Im are tied at 8 under, with Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen and C.T. Pan at 7 under.
On a course that offers eagles and threatens double bogeys, the winner could come from further back. Defending champion Tiger Woods is 4 under through 10 holes of his second round, and there are other green jacket owners in sight, including Patrick Reed at 6 under and Phil Mickelson at 5 under.
Other major champions within sight include Brooks Koepka at 5 under, Rory McIlroy at 3 under, and ageless Bernhard Langer (actually, his age is 63) at 3 under.
A tournament that might have been defined by Bryson DeChambeau’s driver has become the usual Masters jambalaya of hero shots and nervy putts. Willett cracked the face of his driver during his first round, so he teed off with his 3-wood in the second round, and shot a 66.
“It seemed to work quite well,’’ he said with English understatement.
Mickelson doesn’t believe in understatement.
“I’m striking the ball exceptional, and I’m putting horrific,’’ he said. “And if I get that fixed this weekend, I’m going to make a run.’’
Mickelson has added a longer-shafted driver to his bag. How’s that going? “Awesome,’’ he said. “I’m driving like a stallion.’’
Phil does not know how to be boring.
Neither, with a club in his hand, does Thomas, whose game and experience might make him the favorite heading into the weekend.
He hits the ball long and high, and often only his putting holds him back. He played Augusta National the first time when he was competing for Alabama, and found the wet greens this week erased whatever course knowledge he thought he had. “I had two 5-woods back up, it’s so soft,’’ he said.
He’s been collecting intel on the course since his first trip. “I kind of go back to that round, like, dude, remember you made six birdies when you were a freshman in college,’’ he said. “I would hope you’d be able to handle it in your fifth appearance now.’’
Johnson, like Thomas, has the talent, power and skill to win virtually any year at Augusta. He was favored to win in 2017 but fell in his rental house, hurt his back and missed the tournament.
He missed the 2012 Masters after hurting himself lifting a jet ski. He has finished in the top 10 in 19 majors and has finished second in three of his past six. But he has just one major title, the U.S. Open in 2016.
McIlroy played a wild round while watching Johnson thump line drives down the middle of the fairway.
“Same as he’s been playing the last few months — see ball, hit ball, see putt, hole putt, go to the next,’’ McIlroy said. “Yeah, he makes the game so simple or makes it look so simple at times for sure.
“I think he’s got one of the best attitudes toward the game of golf in the history of the game.’’
His attitude, and game, will be tested by the pressure of the Masters, and the changing speed of Augusta National’s infamous greens.