Arriving at Augusta National on top of the rankings after three wins in his last five starts, Scheffler simply carried on where he left off with a superb second-round 67 despite a blustery wind making scoring difficult.

That gave the 25-year-old American a halfway total of eight-under-par and a record-equalling five-shot lead over defending champion Hideki Matsuyama, 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel, Ireland's Shane Lowry and first-round leader Sungjae Im.

All five players to hold such a halfway lead in tournament history went on to claim the green jacket, with Jordan Spieth the most recent to do so in 2015.

"I think I'm still playing against the golf course out there, and there's a bunch of other guys in the field, so I can't be paying too much attention to them either way," Scheffler said.

"I feel like my game is in a good spot. I've done a good job managing my way around the golf course the last two days, and I've made some really nice up and downs and key putts that have kept my rounds going. I've kept my cards pretty clean for the most part, which is nice."

RIGHT: Shane Lowry is part of the chasing pack five shots behind Scheffler. PHOTO: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

As the wind began to subside in the late afternoon, Scheffler began to pull away with more birdies late in the round that made him a clear and difficult target on the weekend.

Lowry recovered from a bogey on the first to return a 68, the former Open champion boosted by chipping in from 38 yards for an unlikely birdie on the 10th.

"I'm in a great position," Lowry said. "You're going to need everything to go your way to be standing there getting a green jacket on Sunday."

Woods had carded an opening 71 on his latest remarkable return from injury, the 15-time major winner having suffered serious leg injuries in a car crash in February last year.

But the 46-year-old got off to a nightmare start on Friday as he bogeyed four of his first five holes before seemingly steadying the ship with a birdie on the eighth.

A stunning approach to the 10th set up another birdie and although it was followed by dropped shots on the 11th and 12th, birdies on the 13th and 14th saw Woods eventually sign for a 74 to maintain his record of never missing a Masters cut as a professional.

"It was blustery, swirling all over the place. I got a couple of bad gusts and made a couple of bad swings on top of that,’ Woods said.

"It's going to be cool tomorrow, going to be the course Augusta National wants, quicker, dryer, faster and a great test.

"I think I'm still playing against the golf course out there, and there's a bunch of other guys in the field, so I can't be paying too much attention to them either way." - Scottie Scheffler. 

"I don't feel as good as I'd like to feel but that's OK. I've got a chance going into the weekend, hopefully have one of those light bulb moments and get it done. I need to get myself there, that's the key."

Schwartzel had earlier revealed he took inspiration from watching footage of his previous Masters victory to move into contention for a second title.

Despite struggling on Friday, Tiger Woods made the cut to continue his comeback at The Masters. PHOTO: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images.

The 37-year-old South African had missed the cut in each of his last six starts on the PGA Tour – and hit the headlines for throwing a club in frustration during the first round of the Valspar Championship, but found some form with a second round of 69 in the toughest of the conditions.

Australia's Cam Smith endured a tough second round but is still in the mix despite his second-round 74. He is tied sixth, with six shots to make up.

There will be four other Australians joining Smith on the weekend with former champion Adam Scott (74), fellow veteran Marc Leishman (75) and Masters rookies Min Woo Lee (75) and Cam Davis (73) making the cut.