Masters 2019: Francesco Molinari shares early second-round clubhouse lead

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Open champion Francesco Molinari shares the early Masters second-round clubhouse lead on seven under with Jason Day and Brooks Koepka at Augusta.

The Italian, 36, had five birdies in a bogey-free 67, while Australian Day also carded a 67 and overnight leader Koepka birdied the last to join them.

World number two Dustin Johnson and Justin Harding are one shot back.

Ian Poulter is another shot back after a battling 71 but Justin Rose looks set to miss the cut on four over.

The top 50 players, plus ties and those within 10 shots of the leader get to play the weekend.

World number one Rose, who started quickly with birdies on his first two holes, added two more birdies on the second nine.

However, four bogeys on his card meant he was right on the cut mark at three over playing the 18th and the 38-year-old, who has twice finished runner-up in the past three years, bogeyed the last.

Four-time winner Tiger Woods and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy are among the later starters.

Magic Molinari to join elite group?

Molinari is enjoying something of a purple patch in his career, with four wins in the past year, including becoming the first Italian to win a major with his victory at Carnoustie in July.

Three birdies on the first nine were backed up with two more on the second nine as the Ryder Cup star built on a solid opening 70, meaning he has only bogeyed one hole so far – the tough par-four 11th.

But history is against Molinari: Only four players have won the Masters while Open champion – Arnold Palmer (1962), Seve Ballesteros (1980), Tom Watson (1981) and Tiger Woods (2001) – while his best performance at Augusta is a tie for 19th in 2012.

Molinari, whose first experience of Augusta National was as a caddie for his older brother Edoardo in 2006, said: “That was good motivation to see how good they were and how much I had to improve.”

He spoke before the tournament about how he has worked extensively on his putting and work around the greens because they have let him down in the past.

“I’ve pretty much changed everything you could think of on my putting stroke,” he said. “I could have started putting left-handed, it would have been a similar process.

“It’s still uncomfortable when you’re standing over some putts or chips because the margin for error is so small but I’ve done better than in the past.”

Koepka and Day fight back

Day, whose best Masters finish is second in 2011, was treated on the course by a physiotherapist for a bad back during Thursday’s opening round.

The healing hands helped the former world number one post a two-under 70 and the 2016 US PGA champion followed it on Friday with six birdies and just one bogey, after hitting into a bunker on the 12th.

Three-time major winner Koepka had three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey on an eventful first nine.

A wayward tee shot on the second into trees, followed by a second that clattered another tree and resulted in a lost ball and penalty stroke, led to a seven on the par-five second.

But the world number four birdied the next, to go with a birdie on the first to stay at six under.

Two bogeys on the first nine’s par three holes briefly dropped the American to four under but birdies on the par-five eighth and 15th holes got him back to six under before he rolled in another on the last.

Poulter ‘has three percent chance’

After finding a fairway bunker with his opening tee shot and bogeying the first, Poulter birdied the par-five second and then went on a run of nine pars before successive birdies on the 12th and 13th briefly put him into the lead on six under par.

However, a “disappointing three-putt” led to a bogey on the 14th and the 43-year-old finished with five pars.

“Apart from that I’ve only had a couple of mistakes this week,” said the Englishman. “I’m just trying to be smart and not take myself out of the tournament, like I’ve done in the past.”

On his chances this weekend, Poulter added: “I’ve got a three percent chance. It was a stat shown on television that 43-year-olds have got a three percent chance of winning this week.”

Masters experience still excites Mickelson

Phil Mickelson said playing his 100th competitive round at the Masters just meant he was “getting old” before adding he “still gets so excited to be here”.

“This is a spiritual place if you love golf the way we do,” said the 48-year-old, who played his first round in 1991.

The three-time champion, who started round two one off the pace on five under par and ended it on four under, said: “I didn’t drive the ball well and that’s key. If I hit it reasonably straight, I can attack a lot of holes.

“If I drive like I did on Thursday, I’m going to have a good week.”

Curse strikes again as Wallace heads home

And the Par-three curse lives to fight another year after England’s Matt Wallace, who beat Sandy Lyle in a play-off to win Wednesday’s mini-tournament, followed his opening 75 with a 77 to miss the cut on his Masters debut on eight over.

Full report and quotes to come at the end of play

2019 Masters on the BBC
Dates: 11-14 April Venue: Augusta National
Coverage: Watch uninterrupted live coverage of the final rounds on BBC Two, with up to four live streams online. Live radio and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sports Extra, BBC Sport website and mobile app. Full details

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