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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

'Just another day at the golf course' for Patrick Reed as he takes US Masters lead while Tiger Woods continues to struggle

World No 24 only player since Ernie Els in 2015 to shoot birdie or better on all four of Augusta's par-5 holes in each of first two days

Patrick Reed catches a ball in the 17th green during the second round at the US Masters. Charlie Riedel / AP Photo
Patrick Reed catches a ball in the 17th green during the second round at the US Masters. Charlie Riedel / AP Photo

Patrick Reed delivered an overwhelming performance under difficult conditions to seize a two-stroke lead after Friday's second round of the US Masters while Tiger Woods struggled but made the cut.

Reed, who shared second in last year's PGA Championship, opened and closed the front nine with runs of three consecutive birdies then ran off another birdie treble on the back nine in shooting 6-under par 66 to stand on 9-under 135 after 36 holes at Augusta National.

"I just kind of kept myself out of trouble and let my putter do all the work," Reed said. "I put it in the right spots so I could be aggressive with the putter."

Reed's only other 36-hole lead was at the 2015 US Open.

"I've been in this kind of position before," Reed said. "It's just another day at the golf course."

World No 24 Reed is the only player since Ernie Els in 2015 to shoot birdie or better on all four of Augusta's par-5 holes in each of the first two days.

Australian Marc Leishman was second on 137 after shooting 67 with Sweden's Henrik Stenson third on 139.

Either Reed, ranked 24th, or 16th-rated Leishman would be the fourth consecutive first-time major winner to capture the green jacket.

Woods, a 14-time major champion playing his first Masters since 2015 following spinal fusion surgery, fired a 3-over 75 but reached the weekend on 4-over 148, delighting fans who stood 10-deep for a glimpse of the legend, whose last major win came at the 2008 US Open.

"It was about six months ago I didn't know if I was going to play again," Woods said. "I'm incredibly thankful to have this opportunity to play golf again. I missed it, and now I'm glad to be a part of it."

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At age 42, the four-time Masters winner revived "Tigermania" with two top-five PGA tuneup finishes after years of injury struggles, but has been humbled so far at formidable Augusta National.

"I didn't hit my irons very good at all," Woods said. "I hit so many beautiful putts. Nothing went in."

The 7,435-yard layout tormented many as confusing winds and lightning-fast greens took a toll.

"The wind was up," Stenson said. "When you have those kind of tricks playing out there it doesn't make it any easier."

Rory McIlroy, chasing a career Grand Slam with a Masters victory, and 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth shared fourth on 140, McIlroy after a 71 while first-day leader Spieth shot 74.

"It's so tricky," McIlroy said. "The wind should be south-southwest but every hole you get on it's coming from a different direction. The wind swirls in these big tall trees."

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson and 2017 PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas were on 141. Thomas would overtake Johnson for number one with a victory on Sunday.

More winds and cooler conditions are expected Saturday along with rain.

"It looks like just grinding out par on the weekend out here," Spieth said.

Reed, an American college champion at nearby Augusta State, never cracked 70 at Augusta until Thursday's 69, but he made up for lost time even though all three birdie hat tricks were followed with bogeys.

"I got a lot more comfortable with the course throughout the years," Reed said. "I'm keeping myself in areas where even if I miss greens I can get up and down."

Tiger Woods tips his hat on the 18th green during the second round at the US Masters. David J Phillip / AP Photo
Tiger Woods tips his hat on the 18th green during the second round at the US Masters. David J Phillip / AP Photo

Reed's highlights included a 26-foot birdie putt at one, a 13-foot birdie putt at seven, a 14-footer at nine and an 18-footer at 13.

Leishman also began with three birdies and unleashed a tremendous approach at 15 to set up a 6-foot eagle putt.

"Probably put 40 yards of hook on it," Leishman said. "I felt that was a time where I had an opportunity. I gave it a go and it came off."

Woods opened with a bogey and took double bogey at the fifth, his approach soaring over the green into dense brush. He plunked his tee shot at the par-3 12th into Rae's Creek, his bogey dropping him to the 5-over cut line.

Woods became the last pro in the field to make a birdie or better at a par-5 hole by two-putting for birdies from 40 feet at 13 and 35 feet at 15. He made bogey at 16 but two closing pars kept him in for the weekend.

Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson made the cut on the number at 5-over 149.

Spain's Sergio Garcia became only the 10th defending champion to miss the cut after a 78 following his opening 81, the worst-ever round for a defending champion.