Notes from the North

With two rounds in the books, the Masters is still anybody's tournament.

You just have to look at Henrik Stenson's 18th hole of the first round to know how quickly things can turn at Augusta, in a big way.

Stenson posted an unheard of EIGHT on the par-four 18th, turning a decent early lead into a deficit in the course of his 465-yard stroll from tee to green.

Now, an 8 is the kind of score I post on a par four hole with alarming regularity but you don't expect it from a tour pro, especially someone like the usually steady Swede. As I was arguing in my last post, however, all it takes is a single lapse of concentration at the Masters and you can go from front-runner to also ran in the blink of an eye.

What I forgot to think about, on the other hand, was the fact that golf can also be a pretty forgiving game. After all, you have to put 72 holes in the books before you proclaim a winner. And Stenson has proven, after a much more steady (if less spectacular) round on Friday, that a player can overcome an early gaffe to stay in contention.

Stenson now sits at -2, just three shots off the lead, and is by no means out of it. That's an amazing thing to think about when you consider the hell he went through on Thursday at 18. I hope he actually does not think about Thursday at 18 very much since, if he did, he'd realise that a par there instead of an eight would have him still leading the golf tournament as of Saturday morning.

And my pick, Justin Rose, is hanging in as well. He's at even par after two rounds, just five shots back. Not that he's been spectacular: he finished round one at par, having posted a single bogey and one birdie, then went for a bit of a dance in round two, needing birdies at 15 and 18 to scramble back to even par.

And Louis Oosthuizen, who I predicted would bounce back after his tough final round last week, is currently tied for third at -4, having eaten the back nine at Augusta alive in his first two rounds, playing those holes at -6 so far. Imagine how confident he'll be on Sunday afternoon if he's close to the lead as he makes the turn.

But what of Tiger Woods? I thought he'd gotten his mind settled after his win a couple of weeks ago but, and I can't believe I'm saying this, the pressure of a major seems to be taking its toll on the great one. That was some ugly round he posted on Friday, much worse than the +3 score he eventually posted. He's not taking advantage of the par fives like he used to and he can't seem to trust his short game, a shock to anyone who has watched him over the years.

At this point, while I stand behind my pick of Justin Rose to win it, I have to admit I'm going to be pulling for the ageless Fred Couples. He's currently sharing the lead and played a beautiful round of golf on Friday, despite two bogies early. He's got a lovely swing and the advantage of great experience on his side. If he can keep it together, I doubt we'll see him crack under Sunday's pressure.

And I have to admit, I do very much like the idea of one of the few players in the field who is actually older than me winning the Green Jacket. Go Justin. Go Freddie!

April 8, 2012  05:06 AM ET

Go Freddie!

Freddie was on the fast track to empty. McIlroy shot a 77 but you still only hear about Tiger's transgressions on the course. I'll be cheering on Bubba to make another break through, but wouldn't mind seeing Lefty win a fourth green jacket.


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