Jonathan Byrd finished tied for eighth in his first Masters appearance in 2003, but the tournament has not been kind to him since — cut in 2004, cut in 2008, cut in 2011.
But this year is different. His 1-under-par 143 at the halfway point of the 76th Masters leaves him in position to strike over the weekend, and he knows why: his short game.
“I missed my last three cuts here ... and I think the reason is my short game has not been where it’s need to be the last couple of years,” he said. “That has improved a lot and it really helps in majors. Miss the green and you can to save par; that’s the difference.”
Byrd, a star at Spring Valley High and Clemson, uses a picture from the 2003 Masters for motivation.
“On the screensaver on my phone,” he said. “I didn’t let anyone see it, but it’s a picture of my playing Augusta in ’03, so anytime I looked at the phone, I saw that picture. I was trying to remember, to see myself playing this course well. I know it suits my game and I feel good on it. Just go play.”
The picture is his tee shot on the 17th hole in the 2003 tournament.
“It was at the 17th tee on Sunday and I had just smoked a tee shot,” Byrd said. “I was looking at the ball and I had this cocky look on my face. You can’t be tentative playing his course. You’ve got to be trusting in what you’ve got and just go out and get after it. I did that in ’03 and I’m getting better this year.”
Nasty No. 18
The 485-yard par-4 18th hole took its toll with Lee Westwood falling from the lead with double bogey, Sergio Garcia dropping a shot and Rory McIlroy scrambling to save par.
“It’s a demanding first shot, demanding second shot and then you (might) have mud (on the ball) and you’re hitting a long iron (to the green),” said Ben Crane, who bogeyed the finishing hole and stands at 2-under-par 142. “It’s just a difficult hole.”
Calling his shot
After his 2-over 74 in the first round, Phil Mickelson said he would “get back in the tournament with a good round” Friday, and he did. He jumped more than 40 places in the standings with a 4-under 68 and is at 142 after two rounds.
“The biggest thing for me was, strategically, I didn’t miss the ball in the wrong spot,” he said. “If I got into some trouble or hit some poor shots, they were on the proper side where I could still get up-and-down and let my short game salvage strokes.”
Keep plugging along
Louis Oosthuizen played early Friday and the colder weather affected his play. But he came back from a 3-over-par front nine with three-under on the back and heads into the weekend one stroke off the pace.
“The course played so different on the front nine than in did on the second nine,” the 2010 British Open champion said. “I looked at the scores and some guys made birdies starting at the first five holes. Some were 3-under (par) and I was 3 over. I knew I needed to hang on ... but I started to get better on the back nine.”
Indeed he did, posting birdies at 14, 16 and 17 and finished even-par 72 for the day.
Color of the day
Judging from their attire most of Friday, the threesome of Mickelson, Hunter Mahan and Peter Hanson might have been auditioning for golf’s version of the 1997 movie Men in Black starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.
Clad in black almost totally from head to toe except for sponsor’s names and logos, the only splash of other colors came from Mahan’s lime cap and Hanson’s green collar protruding from beneath his sweater.
This and that
Want a model of consistency? Charles Howell III posted 17 pars and an eagle in his round of 2-under-par 70. “This is a hard golf course,” he said. “Par is a good score.”... Jason Day withdrew because of injury during the second round. ... Zach Johnson overcame two double bogeys Friday to finish two rounds at even-par 144 and said, “You just persevere and be patient. That was a terrible, terrible golf swing on No. 11. On 9, I misjudged the wind, misjudged the club and I paid the price.” ... Bubba Watson offers a simple plan for the weekend: Just shoot under par. “If you can do that at a major (tournament), you’re going to move up the leader board,” said Watson, who shares third place at 4-under-par 140.