The disappointment belonged to Pádraig Harrington, whose return to the Masters after a year’s absence was all too brief. But, for Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell, the promise of a weekend’s play at Augusta National brought only positives, particularly given neither player is entirely happy with their games right now.
Darren Clarke, the 2011 Open champion, will also be hanging around after a second-round, one-under 71 that will see him start today’s third round at one over par thanks to two birdies in the last four holes last night. Europe’s 2016 Ryder Cup captain shares the same score as McDowell, who carded a four-birdie, six-bogey 74 for his second round.
“I continued to drive it like a wally,” McDowell said. “I’m not sure what’s going on with the driver – it’s one of my strengths normally. I drove the ball terribly the last few days so to make the cut from there, I’m pretty happy with that. I had a couple of clumsy three-putts on the front nine today to put me behind the eight ball a bit, but I dug in and birdies on 15 and 16 were very important.”
Today’s third round will see McDowell at Augusta National on a Saturday for the first time since 2012 and the good news for the former US Open champion is that when he has made the cut, just twice in seven previous attempts, he has finished inside the top 20.
“It’s nice to be here for the weekend, get another couple of rounds under my belt and keep building for the rest of the season. Of course I’d love a big finish, but I need rounds, I need reps, I need to see shots.”
After a trying first round, debutant Lowry improved on his opening 75 with a level-par 72 featuring two birdies and two bogeys last night that left him on the cut line at three over par and with an anxious wait to see if his first Masters would stretch into the weekend.
With a storm system closing in on Augusta and the wind already picking up as Lowry was playing, the world number 46 was quietly confident he would “just about” get to play the weekend here, but nothing was for certain.
“Obviously I’d be pretty happy to make the cut, the way I’ve been playing the last couple of days. I’ve struggled off the tee a lot.
“I drove it okay today, one bad one on 13, but I was just getting it out there. I wasn’t my normal self. Holed a great putt on 17, and a good putt on the last.
“It’s going to be nice, hopefully, to be here on the weekend and get another two rounds’ experience on the golf course for future years, I suppose.”
That he looked set to play the third round was due in large part to a strong closing couple of holes as he rebounded from a bogey at the par-three 16th with a birdie at the 17th, where he sank a 23-foot putt, and a good par save at the last.
“I think I deserved to shoot at least level par today. I ground it out there really well, couple of good up and downs when I got myself out of position.
“It’s disappointing for me not to be further up the leaderboard because the way I’ve played over the last 10 months, if anything I would have felt over the past couple of months my chipping has been letting me down but my chipping feels razor sharp this week, luckily enough. Yeah, I’m tied 56th right now but I’m pretty sure that’s going to make it into the weekend.”
Harrington seemed to be the only definite Irish absentee from today’s third round after following his opening even-par 72 with a five-over 77.
The three-time major winner, back in the PGA Tour winner’s enclosure last month at the Honda Classic, had seen a promising first round get away from him with back-to-back bogeys at 16 and 17 on Thursday.
“It was a disappointing finish yesterday and I sort of carried that into today,” Harrington said.
“I suppose I lost a bit of momentum. I was playing nicely (yesterday) but bogeyed 16 and 17, which weren’t the toughest holes, so it was a disappointing finish and I came out and bogeyed the first hole today and after that I was always on the back foot.
“I didn’t play great today and certainly didn’t get many breaks out there.
“That’s the nature of the golf course. It was one of those days when nothing was really going for me.”
Harrington will now begin a three-week family break in Florida before returning to competition for The Players Championship at Sawgrass on May 7.