HeÂs only made the cut at the Masters, but in doing so, Branden Grace showed what a quick study he is as he went eight shots better on Friday than he did in the first round.
ÂI learned from the mistakes yesterday, made a couple silly mistakes out there yesterday, but I corrected them today,Â he said.
Grace carded a two-under-par 70 in a second round during which Augusta National gave up far fewer strokes than it did during the opening round on Thursday: The lead was held by Jason Day of Australia who signed for a four-under-par 68 to move to six-under for the tournament and a one-stroke lead over GraceÂs playing partner Fred Couples.
ÂHeÂs just a great guy to play with, obviously,Â said Grace as he tried to put his finger on why he was suddenly so much better than he was in the first round.
ÂYou donÂt have to hit it right at the hole here. I hit it pretty well, and today that was a big difference,Â he said.
And that was in no small measure down to being able to feed off the knowledge of Couples, who, for the third consecutive year, posted the best halfway score by a player in his 50s. ÂYou can see why the crowds love him. Just what a gentleman, the way he plays golf,Â said Grace.
ÂHe just said there are some shots you just have to take on the chin and go with it. For instance, where Dustin Johnson tried to get very cute on 18 and it cost him a double. But itÂs things like that on this golf course Â take it on the chin and move on,Â he added.
His own round was filled with examples of Âtaking it on the chinÂ: He opened with birdies on two and three and he must have thought he was going to fill his boots, but he was quickly brought back to earth with bogeys on four and five and he was right back where he started.
But he made four more birdies between then and the 14th, and was looking set for a superb score and appeared to be making the projected cut with ease. Bogeys on 16 and 17 put him in danger of missing it, however, and it took an anxious little wait before he knew he would be playing at the weekend.
He enjoyed his opening two rounds on Augusta National enough to want more. ÂThe place is exactly what you think it’s going to be and more,Â he said. ÂIt was awesome. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Obviously I would like to make the weekend to get that little memory a little bit longer, but it was awesome.Â
Now he knows what it takes to score well in the Masters, and although he is 10 shots off the lead, he will be acutely aware that an eight-shot turnaround in a single round is entirely possible. ÂYou donÂt have to hit it right at the hole here. I hit it pretty well, and today that was a big difference,Â he said.
Behind him, last yearÂs Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen was simply unable to get anything going and he carded a four-over 76 to miss the cut at six-over. George Coetzee was on five-over after the second round, and he too will miss the weekend.
Best of the South Africans was Charl Schwartzel who showed he has the ability to hang on through adversity in a tournament he won in 2011. He made his second successive 71 to be in a share of 14th.
Trevor Immelman went three-over in the second round to slip to one-over for the tournament in a share of 20th, while Ernie Els and Richard Sterne were on one-over in a share of 31st. Tim Clark also made the cut after a second round of four-over saw him slip to two-over for the tournament in 37th.