Golf

Steve Hummer: Strange day at the Masters, but big names still rise to the top

First, before getting into specifics about Friday's second round, here's your injury report from the 83rd Masters, brief but bizarre:

Tiger Woods (prat-falling cop), probable.

Jason Day (simple act of affection), day to day.

Yes, the strange has begun to compete with the compelling as this little golf tournament enters a weekend stuffed with almost too many contenders and plenty of weather-related uncertainty.

Five players emerged from the madness Friday tied for the lead at 7-under-par, all five of such quality that they each own at least one major title. To get to the top of this leaderboard you need a whole lot of grass cred. Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott, Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Francesco Molinari have that.

For those of you keeping score at home that's two U.S. Open titles, two British Opens, a PGA Championship and one Masters.

And just behind them all, in a group of four players at 6 under, is the winner of 14 majors all by himself, a very engaged Woods.

Of the group at the lead, Molinari had the least dramatic round, a no-bogey 67.

Oosthuizen had the lowest round of the five, a 66 that vaulted him from 21st place after the first round to a share of the lead.

Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, did the most of what a Masters champion must do, playing the par 5s in 4 under Friday on his way to a 68.

Koepka had the most resilient round. He shared the first-round lead with Bryson DeChambeau – who himself stumbled, shooting a second-round 75, and declared unequivocally "my putting was atrocious." Koepka looked to be heading in DeChambeau's direction, with a double bogey from parts unknown on the par-5 second hole. Six holes in he had given back two strokes to par, but rallied to finish with a 1-under 71. Major championships are made of recycling an off day into a useful round.

But when it comes to playing through the oddest of circumstances, it's rather a toss-up between one of the leaders – Day – and the most prominent member of those one back – Woods.

Let's begin with Woods, because here we have just about the weirdest Masters mishap on record. By now the video of the incident is more viral than the measles.

Woods, whose driver had wayward tendencies, had pushed himself over toward the crowd and the trees on the 14th fairway. As he was walking and tracking a very nice rescue shot to the green, one member of the security force rushed in behind him, slipped on the muddy ground and slid into Woods' ankles. The tackle might earn him a tryout with Manchester United as well as a yellow card, but probably no commendations from the force.

Woods hopped in pain, and limped all the way to the green. Afterward he was quite accepting of the freak occurrence.

"No, it's all good. Accidents happen. I've had galleries run over me, it's just, you know, when you play in front of a lot of people, things happen," he said.

Putting it in perspective, he told ESPN with a smile, "I've had four back surgeries and three knee surgeries – I'm doing great."

If anything, the incident only seemed to scare Woods straight. Moments later, he rolled in a 28-foot putt for birdie on No. 14. After laying up on the par-5 15th after another drive when sideways, he sank a 30-footer for another birdie. All that kept him from a share of the lead was the 13-foot birdie putt on 18 that stopped cruelly on the lip.

Then there was Day, who was making quite a scene here on Thursday. At Augusta National's second hole, he was sprawled out on his back beneath the pines, stretching and grimacing. Happened again at No. 4.

Pretty sure that, along with running, shouting inanities and calling your broker on your cellphone, lying down is not allowed at the Masters. But not only did Day get away with it, he has thrived ever since.

He wasn't supposed to have the most famous bad back on the leaderboard – that distinction was reserved for Woods – but Day for the moment has played his way up the world golf empathy rankings.

By the simple act of stooping to kiss his daughter minutes before walking to the first tee Thursday, Day aggravated back problems that have been with him since he was a teen. He got that early on-course treatment while stretched out on the grass, moved about this hilly course with the slow deliberation of a fellow working mall security to supplement his Social Security and somehow shot 70.

Day went through a series of treatments and exercises after that first round and into the next morning in order to get himself in condition to play. Not like the routine is new to him – Day has played through injuries for the bulk of his career. And then he got some tough love from his wife, Ellie.

"I was kind of moping a little bit in the bath, and she's like, 'It's the Masters, you need to suck it up.' So, I can't complain about it too much. Because she's birthed three children and I haven't, so she's a lot stronger as a person than me with regards to pain. I just hit a little white golf ball around a course."

As for Saturday, who knows? With Day, you can never be sure.

"Sometimes I wake up and I feel like I'm 50. Sometimes I wake up and I feel like I'm 70. And sometimes I wake up and feel like I'm 18 again. It just comes and goes, and that's just how it is."

Wild times at the Masters, that seem sure to extend into the weekend (factor in also a forecast for rain issues Sunday, at least). Buckle up, stay alert, keep your head on a swivel and beware the chop-blocking cops.

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