Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are tied for the lead as Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose headed a strong English challenge on day two of the 84th Masters.
Johnson and Thomas are level at the top on nine under with Masters debutant Abraham Ancer and Cameron Smith after another day of good scoring at Augusta National, with Willett, Fleetwood and Rose just two behind and with their second rounds complete.
Rory McIlroy recovered from an opening 75 with a superb 66 to end the day just six off the lead when it looked like he had played himself out of the tournament over the first 90 minutes of Friday morning, while Tiger Woods and Jon Rahm are among the big names who will return early on Saturday to finish their second rounds.
Johnson again looked in cruise control as soon as play resumed at 7:30am, making a two at the 12th and three birdies over the last four holes which rounded off a first-round 65 that matched Paul Casey’s best-of-the-day effort on the weather-disrupted first day.
After around an hour between rounds, Johnson restarted on the 10th and made a mockery of the difficulty of Amen Corner, birdieing 11, 12 and 13 to vault three clear of the field and looking likely to race further ahead until he bogeyed 14 and then came up short with his second to 15 – one of many to find the water at the front of the green.
The resulting bogey took the wind out of his sails, and his shoulders sagged a little further when he missed a short putt for birdie at the next before he ground out 11 consecutive pars to stay at eight under par.
With Ancer (67), Smith (68) and Thomas (69) already in the clubhouse on nine under, Johnson managed to haul himself back into a tie at the top when he hammered a huge drive down the ninth and clipped a wedge to six feet, knocking in a birdie putt which could have a huge impact on his confidence going into the weekend.
Thomas closed out a 66 before making a poor start to his second round, although he recovered with four straight birdies from the 15th only to then make a mess of the first and give another two shots back.
He did respond with a four at the second, and a birdie-birdie finish capped an adventurous 69, while world No 2 Jon Rahm is just one off the lead and has a five-foot birdie putt to return to on the 13th green when play resumes at 7:30am on Saturday morning (12:30pm GMT).
Willett has not made the halfway cut at Augusta National since he took advantage of Jordan Spieth’s collapse in 2016 and powered to the title, but he is well-placed for a weekend challenge after rounds of 71 and 66 – the latter achieved despite not having a driver in his bag.
The Yorkshireman cracked the clubface in his driver two holes from the end of his first round and opted not to replace it, and he may have been regretting that decision when he pulled his three-wood into trouble at the 10th and started his second round with a double-bogey six.
But he got back on track with an eagle at 13 followed by two straight birdies, and his sixth birdie of the round at the ninth rounded off a 66 which was emulated by fellow Englishman Fleetwood, who also erred early in his second round.
Rose, twice a Masters runner-up, posted an opening 67 but was one over for his second 18 until he birdied three of his last four holes to join Willett and Fleetwood on seven under, while overnight leader Paul Casey slipped to six under and still had seven holes remaining when play was halted due to darkness.
Three-time champion Phil Mickelson “drove like a stallion” but “putted awful” in rounds of 69 and 70 which got him to five under, while Bernhard Langer created Masters history as the evergreen 63-year-old got through 36 holes in three under and became the oldest player to make the halfway cut.
Woods had a late start to his second round and looked a little erratic in an outward 36, making birdies at both par-fives but dropping shots at the third and seventh, and he had just tugged his drive at the 11th into the first cut and faces a tough 203-yard second when he gets back to the course on Saturday.
McIlroy, full of optimism heading into the tournament, looked disconsolate as he trudged off the 18th green having needed 39 strokes to negotiate the back-nine as he signed for a first-round 75 which left him not only 10 shots behind Casey, but needing a sub-70 second round to avoid a missed cut.
But he was a different player in the afternoon, making six birdies and keeping a bogey off his card in a 66 which got him through to the third round with plenty to spare on three under par.
Lee Westwood (13 holes), Ian Poulter (9) and Matt Wallace (9) are all at two under with plenty of golf remaining in their second rounds, while pre-tournament favourite Bryson DeChambeau is struggling to avoid missing the cut after a rollercoaster first 12 holes, carding only three pars.
DeChambeau birdied the second but was unfortunate to lose a ball in a boggy area left of the third green, returning to the tee and eventually scrapping his way to a triple-bogey seven which he followed with back-to-back bogeys.
The US Open champion did manage to birdie the sixth, eighth and 12th around further errors at seven and 10, and he is likely to need to play the final six holes in two under par if he is to extend his tournament from one over.
Play will resume on Saturday at 12:30pm, and we’ll have live coverage of the conclusion of the second round on Sky Sports The Masters and Sky Sports Main Event.
If no further delays occur, the third round will begin at approximately 3:30pm.