A mix of brilliant ball-striking and streaky putting has Adam Scott just four strokes from the lead at the halfway mark of the 81st Masters Tournament.
Scott hasn’t seriously contended in a major championship for four years, but there were signs in his second round three under 69 that he is not far away from replicating the form that saw him win the green jacket in 2013.
He is tied for 10th place, four shots adrift of first round leader Charley Hoffman (75), Spain’s Sergio Garcia (69), Belgian Thomas Pieters (68) and American Rickie Fowler (67).
The 36-year-old had his swing dialed in from the moment he walked on the course. He pumped a 325-yard drive down the 1st fairway and followed it with a pinpoint wedge to five feet, which he duly converted for birdie.
RIGHT: Adam Scott's ball-striking is back to its best. PHOTO: David Cannon/Getty Images.
It was the first of six birdies for the day. Further birdies came at 3 (from 7 feet), 7 (7 feet), 9 (11 feet), 12 (18 feet), 15 (4 feet) and 18 (10 feet) in what was a much better putting display compared with the opening round.
“Today was a really good day, can't ask for much more,” Scott said. “Started 10 back and I'm now four back. This is a good result.
“It would be nice if we get a little calmer conditions on the weekend, just because it's too hard playing this golf course like this four days in a row.”
As good as it was, his 69 could easily have been a 67 or 66, as several three and four footers burned the edge of the hole on what was, undoubtedly, a difficult day for putting with strong winds still lashing the course.
By the time he reached Amen Corner early on the back nine he was within three shots of the lead and seemingly cruising. But a wayward drive from the 11th tee, compounded by a three putt to close the hole, saw him drop back out of the top-10 on the leaderboard.
Scott showed great resolve however. He bounced back with a birdie after the double bogey on 11, and did similar on 15 after having three-putted the previous green for a bogey.
Four three-putts in the first two rounds won’t get in done for Scott this week. But he says the wind dropping off over the weekend will be a big help in making more putts.
“It's just hard. It's hard to hit a putt here,” Scott said. “Most putts are outside the hole and you're aiming them outside the hole, it's meant to break left and the wind is blowing left‑to‑right, it's very hard to commit and hit.
“I felt like I committed on a lot of them and I just got them wrong. I didn't always hit poor putts, it's just very difficult.
“I think that it will get easier if that wind settles down and all the good stuff how I've been putting really well will fall back into place.”
From tee to green there has been no better player in the field over the first two days than Scott. His approach shots have finished, on average, closer than any other player, while his driving has been long and relatively straight.
He knows he’s hitting it well and converting the short putts all the time will be the difference if he wants to win a second green jacket.
“When I won in 2013 I don't think I missed a putt inside six feet for the week,” he stated.
“And I'm going to have to kind of have that weekend here, if I really want to win.
“I mean, they all count the same, but it feels like those ones that you don't want to let slip. And if I can sharpen that up a little, which I have every belief I will.”
Scott is the best of the Australians heading into the third round.
Marc Leishman, like Scott, has been battling with his putter – at least when he’s had birdie chances. He signed for a two over 74 and is three over after two rounds, with just two birdies to his name – both of which have come at the par-5 2nd hole.
RIGHT: Curtis Luck is back in the contest for the leading amateur medal. PHOTO: Getty Images.
The Victorian is tied 19th and only seven shots back.
Young amateur Curtis Luck rallied after an opening six over 78 to post an even par 72 and is tied 45th. In the battle for leading amateur honours, the 20-yar-old is just three strokes adrift of American Stewart Hagestad.
Jason Day is also tied for 45th after carding a four over 76. The recent former World No.1 started his round strongly with birdies at the 2nd and 3rd holes and was able reach the turn in one under and was on the cusp of the top-10 on the leaderboard.
But four bogies and a double bogie on the back nine, offset by just one birdie, had him home in 41 shots.
Fellow Queenslander Rod Pampling carded a six over 78 to be eight over and missed the cut by two strokes.