Yang surges ahead
Posted: Friday, April 8, 2011 6:28 pm
By: By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP National Writer
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — With Rory McIlroy still waiting to tee off, Y.E. Yang surged into the lead at the Masters this morning.
Yang, the South Korean best known as the guy who beat Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship, started the second round with a bogey, then ripped off three straight birdies. He added another birdie at the par-5 eighth to claim the outright lead for the first time at 8 under.
Ricky Barnes, who was runner-up at the U.S. Open two years ago, was also on the move with birdies at three of his first six holes, including both par 3s on the front side. He was one shot off the lead.
Yang actually went eight holes without a par, including his up-and-down finish to Thursday’s round. Yang birdied the 15th and 16th, then finished with back-to-back bogeys for a 67 that left him two strokes behind McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros of Spain.
Quiros’ 65 was 10 strokes better than his previous best score at Augusta National. He got off to a shaky start in the second round, making bogey at the first hole to drop out of the lead.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson was hoping to hit the ball a little straighter after scrambling for a 70 in the first round. He got off to a good start, putting his first tee shot in the fairway on the way to a par, then tapping in for birdie at the par-5 second to push his score to 3 under.
On Thursday, Mickelson hit only four out of 14 fairways Thursday — the worst percentage in the 99-player field. Not surprisingly, he headed straight from the 18th hole to the practice range, looking to work out the kinks in his swing in fading sunlight.
Imagine the possibilities if he can actually keep it in the short grass.
“It’s OK, just OK,” Mickelson said of his 70. “I didn’t shoot myself out of it, but I didn’t make up ground on the field the way I wanted to, so I’ve got to go do it.”
It should be another warm day. The temperature was expected to climb into the mid-80s, though there was a chance of afternoon thunderstorms.
There were plenty of red numbers on the scoreboard after Round 1. The world’s best golfers were able to attack the venerable course on a sunny day with only a hint of a breeze, the pins positioned more favorably than they’ll likely be the rest of the week.
Another South Korean, K.J. Choi, matched Yang with an opening 67. Barnes and Matt Kuchar were the top Americans at 68. Seven others were in the 60s, including 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman and a rejuvenated Sergio Garcia, resuming his chase for that first major title.
Woods was still on the fringe of contention, posting a 71 that’s right around his norm for a first day at Augusta National, where he’s won four times and almost always puts himself in contention.
He had an afternoon tee time, as did McIlroy.
“Hey, it’s a long way to go,” said Woods, mired in the longest winless streak of his career. “We have a long grind ahead of us. The temperature is supposed to warm up and I’m sure they will start making the pins a little more difficult as the week goes on. I’m right there in the ballgame. I’m only six back.”
Those guys at the top of the board are more proof that a new generation of golfers is on the way, even at a place that embraces its past.
The 21-year-old McIlroy, who opened with a 63 at St. Andrews last summer in the British Open, again delivered exquisite shots on one of the biggest stages. It was such a clean round that he didn’t make a bogey and was left wondering how much lower he could have gone if not for missing five birdie chances inside 10 feet.
“It wasn’t maybe as exclusive or spectacular as the 63 at St. Andrews,” he said. “But it was very solid from start to finish.”
McIlroy spent the afternoon watching the late starters on television, wondering if anyone could match his score. No one did until the 28-year-old Quiros, playing in the final group.
Considered the longest hitter in the game, the lanky Spaniard blasted away on a course where he had never shot better than 75. Finally, he spun an approach back to 3 feet on the 18th hole to catch McIlroy atop the leaderboard.
“Time to do it, isn’t it?” said Quiros, who lit up the course with his smile as much as his shotmaking. “Finally, I played well. I was lucky, too. I holed putts.”
Augusta still showed some teeth if players got too careless.
PGA champion Martin Kaymer, ranked No. 1 in the world, struggled again at the Masters and shot a 78. He has never made the cut, and it looks as though this might be another short week. Lee Westwood, runner-up to Mickelson last year, opened with a 72.
“It’s not my game at the moment,” Westwood said. “If you can’t hole it out from 4 feet, you’re going to struggle.”