The 86th Masters is not short of big names. Of course, the first name to come up this week at Augusta National is Tiger Woods. After a first round, 1 under 71, he is in the mix. He’s not the only recognizable name near the top.
We’ve gathered our experts to see what’s next as the first bigs of the year enter round two.
Tiger Woods started well. What do you expect from him in Round 2?
Mark Schlabach: I thought he would go 2 under 70 in the first round, and he ended up at 1 under 71. He will go lower on Friday. Tiger just has an incredible pain threshold and a determination to compete. Many of his mistakes on Thursday are correctable. Woods said he had a terrible warm-up session and didn’t feel comfortable leaving the tournament practice area. It showed off the tee and around the greens. If he straightens those areas and keeps putting like he did in the first round, he’ll go down on Friday and be right there in the mix going into the weekend.
Michael Collins: Expect him to shoot 1 in round 2. Even par should make the cut easily if the weather forecast holds. Unless he accidentally falls asleep with his leg in the mirror. I’m joking of course. I’m sure Tiger has his own cryotherapy unit that automatically shuts off.
Kevin Van Valkenburg: I thought he looked stiff and a bit hesitant on Thursday, and I hope a full night and morning of treatment will help him wind down in the afternoon. I think he’ll hit better on Friday with his irons, but he had a few breaks on Thursday that made up for that. I would expect something similar, around par or just below.
Nick Pietruszkiewicz: As always, it depends on how the body feels. But if he feels loose enough to allow him to swing like he did on Thursday or even close to it, he won’t back down. He has an unparalleled ability to move around Augusta National. Thursday’s 71 came despite a pretty poor day of chipping and, again, without taking advantage of the par-5s. He knew he could play before he got here, otherwise he wouldn’t have come here. On Friday, a number in the 60s arrives.
Which player, not named Tiger Woods, are you most impressed heading into the second round?
Schlabach: Joaquin Niemann. I watched Niemann, a 23-year-old Chilean, go from wire to wire to win the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in mid-February. He has a lot of talent and it’s finally starting to show. Opening with a 3-under 69, while playing with Woods on Thursday, is pretty impressive. He had three birdies and an eagle on the ninth, where he hit it 105 yards from the fairway. It was the sixth eagle out of the ninth in Masters history.
Collins: Scottie Scheffler. Normally there’s a disappointment after reaching No. 1 so quickly, but Scheffler continues to plug in. He has a great attitude, and the way he and caddy Ted Scott worked together reminds me of Jordan Spieth and Michael Greller in 2015.
Van Valkenburg: Sungjae Im. I’ve been a huge fan for years, because it’s really fun to watch him shoot pins. He is really fearless and I love the unique swings.
Pietruszkiewicz: Cameron Smith. It’s something to start and end a round with a double bogey and still be on the top page of the leaderboard. But that’s what happens when you throw eight birdies at Augusta National. The question is what happens in round 2: all those birdies or the big two numbers? He’s too good, which has been obvious for a while now, to care much about mistakes. He won’t separate from the peloton, but he’ll post another good one on Friday.
Which big name worries you the most and could go home before the start of the weekend?
Schlabach: There hasn’t been a first Masters winner since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. There’s a reason. It takes time to understand Augusta National, and budding star Sam Burns realizes that this week. He shot 3 of 75 on Thursday.
Collins: Justin Thomas. I feel bad for him because he’s spent all this time with Tiger Woods and his game doesn’t seem to be in the right place right now. Everyone wonders what would have happened if he had been selfish and worked alone this week. Probably the same result, but no one will ever know.
Van Valkenburg: Bryson DeChambeau looks lost. I know he’s injured, but I’m not sure playing through this injury will do him any good. It might be time to close it.
Pietruszkiewicz: There’s really only one answer here and that’s Justin Thomas. He shot 76, which was the same number posted by the timeless Bernhard Langer. OK, Langer is actually 64, but you get the idea. I am with Michael. Tiger’s whirlwind made an impact.
Which player, not named Tiger Woods, do you have in mind to make a run on Friday?
Schlabach: Corey Conners. The Canadian doesn’t get enough credit for his quality. He is one of the best iron players in the world and already has a pair of top 10s in four starts at Augusta National. He hit 13 of 18 greens and 10 of 14 fairways on Thursday. Better still, Conners had sub-par scores in each of his previous four second rounds, including a 65 in 2020 (when he tied for 10th) and a 69 in 2021 (when he tied for eighth).
Collins: Patrick Red. He seems close and likes this golf course. Reed’s game has been on hiatus lately, but we all know the magic this place holds in the hearts of former champions. He also likes to play in difficult conditions. If all goes well, I expect Captain America’s B-game to put him within a couple of headshots by Friday night.
Van Valkenburg: I’ll take Shane Lowry. I thought he had a real hit this week, but he couldn’t hold on to a benign enough day. Let’s hope that the wind blowing on Friday will be to his advantage.
Pietruszkiewicz: Patrick Cantlay opened with 79 a year ago. And that was it. He looked like he was heading for another dump on Thursday. On the 13th, he understood things. Birdied there and on the 15th, then stuffed his tee shot on the 16th to set up a third in four holes. Once he’s gone, be careful. He could be the guy the rest of the peloton is looking for heading into the weekend.
What did you think of the way Augusta National played on Thursday and what do you expect from the venue on Friday?
Schlabach: The wind will start to blow and will continue to howl until Sunday’s final. Forecasts call for winds of 20 to 30 mph on Friday with stronger gusts. Then it will be cooler on Saturday with winds of 15 to 25 mph. Tiger won’t like cooler temperatures, but he will like the wind. Many other players won’t.
Collins: Hearing Jon Rahm talk about mudballs is disappointing. Most players didn’t have this problem. It was crazy how quickly the skies cleared, the temperatures rose and the winds picked up. For this reason, when the wind really starts to pump tomorrow, expect this location to hand out a lot more scores above par than below par.
Van Valkenburg: It will get harder. Harder. What I love for Tiger’s sake. The wind is going to be blowing hard and I want to see guys who can control their ball flight. It’s got Tiger, slack and all, right in it.
Pietruszkiewicz: On the revamped 11th hole, Woods hit a 283-yard drive. Not exactly Bryson DeChambeau territory, but still good enough. He had 242 yards left! On a par-4! So even after a few days with periods of big, big storms, Augusta National did not play easy. And on Friday, the temperature is expected to drop and the wind to pick up even more. Things aren’t going to get any easier. But it’s hard and fair and a lot of fun – at least for people watching.