Any golfers hoping Augusta National Golf Club would be more forgiving after a difficult opening round, one that saw less than 20 players finish under par, didn't get their wish. The home of the season's first major was once again providing a difficult test early on Day 2.
The challenging scoring conditions meant that any golfer playing under par was having a good round. The lack of low scores also points toward an entertaining weekend because it should keep the leaderboard bunched up, leaving more players in the mix.
As Round 2 of the Masters continues, let's check out some updates on players making up some ground during Friday's action. That comes after a look at the updated group of leaders from Augusta.
2014 Masters Leaderboard
Jonas Blixt (-2 today thru 4; -4 overall)
One of the most interesting parts of every major is when players from off the radar make a charge up the leaderboard. The biggest question is always whether they have the staying power to compete for all four rounds on a tough course against elite competition.
Blixt has been the most successful sleeper so far and isn't showing any signs of fading away. Two birdies in the first three holes left him in a tie for the lead. ESPN Stats and Info noted that he's never held the lead at the conclusion of a major round:
The Swede, who played his college golf at Florida State, did finish fourth in the PGA Championship last season. A similar finish in the Masters would ensure he doesn't get overlooked moving forward. He's off to a very encouraging start.
Kevin Stadler (-2 today thru 6; -4 overall)
Stadler is a 34-year-old veteran with 10 wins across various tours on his resume. He's never finished inside the top 50 at a major championship, however, and this is his first Masters appearance, which makes his presence near the top of the leaderboard quite a surprise.
The goal at Augusta is to avoid the massive mistakes that can ruin an otherwise solid performance. Plenty of pars with a birdie thrown in every handful of holes is good enough to contend, especially with the course providing a tricky test.
Stadler has followed that script and is striking the ball really well. His track record suggests he'll have a tough time maintaining this level of play long enough to win the tournament, but he's well on his way to posting his best major result (at the very least).
Bubba Watson (-1 today thru 8; -4 overall)
Two years ago, Watson secured the biggest victory of his career when he won the Masters by outlasting Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff. As the reigning champion, he finished well off the pace in a tie for 50th place. It led to questions about which version of him would show up in 2014.
He's playing like a golfer capable of capturing another green jacket so far. A birdie surrounded by a bunch of pars has him tied for the lead. Tim Dahlberg of the Associated Press (via Golf.com) passed along comments from the fan favorite, who said after Round 1 that the lack of pressure that comes with defending the title has helped:
The emotions are different because I'm trying to get the green jacket again. There's so much you're doing when you're defending champ, and my mind can't handle it. For me it was just overwhelming, the Champions Dinner, everybody still congratulating you, so I just never got the focus. I played really bad on Sunday last year.
Watson is definitely a player who runs hot and cold. When he's going well and is full of confidence, he can beat the best fields in golf, as he showed when he won his first Masters. While it's still early, all signs point to him contending this weekend.
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