AUGUSTA, Ga. — The wind roaring through the Georgia pines gave so many golfers all they could handle Friday in the Masters.
And then Scottie Scheffler made it feel even tougher.
In his debut as the new No. 1 player in the world, Scheffler looked the part. He was bogey-free over the final 15 holes for a 5-under 67, tying the Masters record by building a five-shot lead going into the weekend.
Only four other players in Masters history have led by five shots after 36 holes, most recently Jordan Spieth in 2015. All of them went on to win.
Scheffler, the 25-year-old Texas Longhorn, has won three of his last five starts on the PGA Tour and doesn’t appear to be overwhelmed by the stage of Augusta National.
He was at 8-under 136, five shots clear of defending champion Hideki Matsuyama (69), former champion Charl Schwartzel (69), former British Open champion Shane Lowry (68) and 18-hole leader Sungjae Im (74).
Former Masters champion Dustin Johnson (73) led a group at 2-under 142, while another bunch included two-time major champion Collin Morikawa and former PGA champion Justin Thomas, whose 67 matched Scheffler for low round of the day.
Scheffler got his mistakes out of he way early and began to seize control with two birdies right before making the turn. After a tough par save from right of the 11th green, he added two birdies from 12 feet on the par-3 12th and a tough pitch from well right on the par-5 13th.
By then, the wind began to subside in the late afternoon and Scheffler began to pull away with two more birdies that made him a clear and difficult target on the weekend.
And to think only two months ago he still didn’t have a PGA Tour victory.
Thomas, meanwhile, opened with a 76 and spent the rest of the day sulking at what looked to be a lost opportunity.
He capped off his 67 with three straight birdies along the back nine.
“I very easily could be going home right now, and not only am I not, but I’m in a really good spot going into this weekend,” Thomas said.
He was seven behind, nonetheless, though he wasn’t the least bit surprised Scheffler was able to post such good rounds to build a big lead.
“If I played how I should yesterday, I should be right there with him,” Thomas said. “This place, I love it because you can make so many birdies – even in conditions like this, if you plot your way around and know how to get it around, you can make a lot of birdies. It exposes you when it gets this windy if you don’t have control of your ball.
“He clearly has control of everything right now based off the last couple of months, so I’m not too surprised,” he added. “But yeah, I would appreciate it if he would stop going too far away.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Source: ESPN GOLF