About halfway through the action at Day 2 of the 2013 Masters, there are conclusions to be drawn from the early part of the golfers that have hit Augusta the hardest on Friday.
Marc Leishman has retained his Round 1 lead, as Jim Furyk, Fred Couples, Angel Cabrera, Adam Scott and Justin Rose all are hovering around the top of the leaderboard. Cabrera has stormed back into contention with four-straight birdies down the back nine of a course he once conquered in 2009.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy sit at three-under and one-under, respectively.
Elsewhere, Sergio Garcia has faltered after his hot start, while Tiger Woods is just finishing up the first couple of holes on his Friday afternoon. Charl Schwartzel, Jason Dufner and Steve Stricker are three of the biggest movers up the leaderboard, all three shot two-under during their Friday rounds.
As expected at Augusta, things will change before the day is over. Still, we can draw a few favorable considerations from the early part of the tournament.
Check out the sections below for some of the early risers (and fallers) from Round 2 of the Masters at Augusta National and the biggest surprises from Round 2 action so far.
Dustin Johnson Plays Like a Champ, Then a Cut Candidate
Johnson is keen on winning his first-ever major championship this year.
After finishing at five-under during his first round on Thursday, Johnson continued his hot start to the tournament on Friday. Reaching seven-under at one point, Johnson currently trails leader Jim Furyk by one stroke, and he is still in position to make a late leap.
As Joe Posnanski reported on Twitter during Friday's action, there are some that are anxiously waiting for Johnson to put it all together:
Joe Posnanski @JPosnanski
A golf pro once told me that Dustin Johnson was the most talented golfer in the world. Including Tiger and Rory.4/12/2013, 5:28:26 PM
Could Augusta be the place it happens?
Johnson will need to rebound after a rough back nine, but he certainly has been one of the best golfers so far during this tournament. If he can avoid the inconsistencies (two double-bogeys) that plagued him down the stretch in Round 2, he should still be a golfer to watch over the final two days of action.
Veterans Doing Work
Check out the leaderboard, and you'll see both Jim Furyk and Fred Couples in position to contend for the green jacket yet again.
Both men have stolen the spotlight from the big boys during the first two rounds, particularly Couples, who continues to impress us all despite being 53 years old and having a fair amount of golf mileage on his aging body.
Furyk is no slouch either, reminding us all why he was on the 2012 Ryder Cup team and why he should continually be a darkhorse pick to win major tournaments this season.
While the spotlight will continue to shine on the young kids in position to win their first Masters (Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar), Couples and Furyk are setting the pace in a vintage performance, proving that knowing the course is half the battle in major tournaments.
Phil Mickelson's Inconsistency
The lefty just can't seem to put together a consistent streak of golf so far through two days.
He's above the cut at three-over and really looked to be off to a good start with a couple of birdies through the first eight holes.
Since hole No. 9, though, Mickelson has five bogeys in his last seven holes, including a double bogey on the par-three No. 12—which he birdied on Thursday to start an epic rise through the ranks to close his opening round.
Mickelson did hit a birdie in-between those holes, but he's clearly struggling to find a consistent rhythm at the Masters.
Tianlang Guan's One-Stroke Penalty
The story of the Masters has been 14-year-old Tianlang Guan, a young man from China who has a chance to make the cut when tournament play closes on Friday afternoon.
If he does make the cut, it won't be without a little bit of luck.
Not luck from his golf shots, but luck from the rest of the field. Guan was assessed a one-stroke penalty on No. 17 for slow play, pushing his total right around the expected cut line of four-over as the rest of the field finishes play.
Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel was not happy about the ruling:
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelESPN
Tianlang Guan was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play?! What a time and what a player for officials to start making such a ruling.4/12/2013, 6:35:06 PM
But, as mentioned on the ESPN broadcast by Mike Tirico, Guan is going to get no breaks even though he's only 14. He's not playing like a 14-year-old on the course, and the committee is simply following rules to keep the rest of the field from laboring on in an already gruesome four-day experience.
Be sure to continue checking out the field with the impending cut coming, and see if Guan—and your favorite golfer—can avoid missing the cut at the Masters.
It's been an action-packed two days so far, and we aren't done with the second round just yet.