Friday, 19 March 2010

American Chad Campbell raced to the top of the leaderboard with a five under par 67 in the second round of the 70th Masters Tournament as David Howell of England and the Irish pair of Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington drew inspiration from their stunning surroundings at Augusta National to lodge their claims for a coveted Green Jacket.

Four strokes off the pace overnight, 31 year old Campbell mixed six birdies with a solitary bogey at the 17th to finish on 138, six under par, just four strokes ahead of Clarke and Howell and five in front of Harrington, whose performance qualifies as a live contender for Comeback of the Week.


Harrington appeared in desperate straits when he stood five over par after seven holes of the first round, but rallied to finish with a commendable 73, followed by an even better second round of 70 for a total of 143.


Clarke, meanwhile, insisted he was still in holiday mode following a relaxing family holiday in the Bahamas prior to his arrival in Augusta. That carefree attitude proved the catalyst behind a second round of 70 for 142 which leaves him alongside his Ryder Cup colleague Howell in a tie for fifth place alongside Major Champions Ernie Els (71, 71) and Phil Mickelson (70, 72) and South African Tim Clark. 


A wonderful nine iron approach from 152 yards came to rest just two feet from the hole at the last, allowing Clarke the luxury of a simple tap in for a closing birdie. He emerged tanned and smiling after signing for a 70 and laughed: “Maybe it’s got something to do with last week in the Bahamas. Sometimes when you go away completely and not touch the clubs, it brings back what it really important – and golf ain’t that important.”


Clarke was referring to his wife’s illness, which has given him a new sense of perspective. He added: “There are a lot of people who want to win this a lot more than I do. I would love to do it, but it really isn’t that important.”


Howell, tied 11th on his Masters debut last year, goes into the weekend among the leaders once again. He was fourth and paired with defending Champion Tiger Woods on Saturday in 2005 but believes he is mentally stronger this time around.


"I am not swinging the club as well as I was last year, but mentally I am better another 12 months down the line. I am ranked higher than in 2005 and won a couple of times. I've handled some pressurised situations in the last year."


Howell finished strongly with a 12 foot birdie putt for a second successive 71, while Harrington also conjured up a marvellous shot at the last, firing a wedge from 134 yards to six feet and making the birdie putt to match Clarke’s 70. The Dubliner admitted: “I am swinging the club better than at any time this year. After seven holes yesterday I was starting to lose patience, but maybe I was being too defensive.


“I lost that defensiveness and started taking on shots with a view to making birdies rather than plod along with pars. If I can keep that same attitude for the next two days and be a little more aggressive, I’ll be happy.”


England's Luke Donald, who finished tied fourth last year, looked poised to join Clarke, Howell and Harrington in red figures on the scoreboard after holing a bunker shot at the tenth. However, as he sized up a possible birdie on the 15th with a five iron in his hand, Donald proceeded to misjudge his approach and finished with a bogey six followed by a three putt five at the 17th.


He closed with a testing par putt for a round of 72 and two over par total of 146 and said: "It was an important putt on the last. If I had missed that I would have felt robbed. I thought I played better than 72 but it's a fine line here between bogey and birdie."


Woods, chasing a fifth Green Jacket, tagged a 71 onto his opening 72 for a one under par total as a total of 47 players made the cut for the weekend. Among the list of casualties were past winners Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam, while Colin Montgomerie also bowed out on five over par, the same mark as Woosnam.


It seemed that the ten shot rule, which allows all players within ten strokes of the leader to make the cut, might save Montgomerie and Woosnam. However tournament leader Campbell birdied the last for six under par, letting in all the fouor over pars but eliminating the five overs.


Campbell goes into the weekend leading by three shots from Americans Fred Couples (70) and Rocco Mediate (67) and Fiji's Vijay Singh, whose 74 contained five birdies but, most untypically, back to back double bogeys at the fourth and fifth when he seemed poised to take control of the tournament.

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