Masters leaderboard packed with stars and storylines

AUGUSTA, Ga. — You’ve been waiting 19 months for this Masters, and you wanted the wait to be worth it.

Well, you’ve got it.

You wanted big names in contention entering the weekend?

How about Dustin Johnson, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, tied for the lead with Justin Thomas, ranked No. 3, along with up-and-comers Abraham Ancer and Cam Smith — all of whom are 9-under after Friday’s second round, which was suspended because of darkness and to be completed Saturday morning.

Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im, Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama are one shot back at 8-under, with Rahm and Matsuyama still to complete their respective second rounds.

Former Masters champion Danny Willet, who’s been in the wilderness since his 2016 victory, is 7-under along with European Ryder Cup heroes Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose. Louis Oosthuizen and C.T. Pan are also 7-under and still to complete their second rounds.

You wanted defending champion and five-time Masters winner Tiger Woods in the mix — a difficult ask entering the tournament considering how infrequently and poorly he’d been playing this year?

Woods is 4-under with eight holes still to finish in his second round Saturday morning.

You’re sentimental and a fan of 50-year-old Phil Mickelson?

He’s very much alive for the weekend in pursuit of a fourth green jacket — at 5-under through 36 holes.

You like the locals?

Augusta native Charles Howell III is 5-under with three more holes in his second round to play as he tries to do what fellow Augusta native Larry Mize did in 1987, win the ultimate home game in golf.

Brooks Koepka, remember him? He’s 5-under and lurking.

Fan favorite Rickie Fowler, whose game has been lost for a couple years as he’s made swing changes, is 4-under and alive.

So, too, is Rory McIlroy, who’s taking his sixth crack at completing the career Grand Slam with a Masters victory. McIlroy, who shot 75 in his opening round and was all over the yard, shaved nine strokes off of that with his second-round 66 and the Slam dream is alive.

You like the old guys?

Bernhard Langer, age 63, is 3-under and not out of it.

There’s even an amateur in the mix — John Augenstein, who’s 3-under and tied for 27th.

We could go on, but you get the picture: This Masters already has been worth the wait and it’s not even halfway home yet.

The second round will resume at 7:30 a.m., televised by ESPN, and is expected to be completed by 10:30, when the third round will begin. Barring any more weather issues, the tournament should be caught up by day’s end Saturday for a dramatic final-round Sunday.

An interesting dynamic to this day was the fact the players whose opening rounds were suspended Thursday because of weather delay got to finish their respective first rounds Friday morning and then go right back out for the second rounds.

“It’s nice,’’ Dustin Johnson said after finishing his first round and before he went out for his second. “I feel like I’m on a roll. I’m feeling good with my golf swing. To continue playing is a nice advantage.’’

Johnson, for a brief moment, looked like he was ready to run away with the tournament in his second round, when he got to 10-under after birdies on Nos. 9 through 13, opening up a big lead.

But Johnson promptly bogeyed 14 and 15, a par-5 he usually would birdie, and brought a lot of players back into contention.

That turned out to be one of the key moments in the day.

“On 14, I had a little bit of dirt on the ball and it turned right‑to‑left instead of cut,’’ Johnson said. “It stayed up on top of the hill, which is a spot where I knew I couldn’t hit it. Then on 15, I hit a good shot, it just got a gust of the wind. I hit a good shot — 3-iron. The wind picked up a little bit and floated on me a hair and came up a couple yards short.

“Before I teed off, I think I would have taken it,’’ Johnson said of 9-under and a share of the lead. “But obviously I feel like I played a little bit better than my position right now. I’m still happy with the way I’m swinging it, how I’m controlling the golf ball and everything I’m doing. I’m rolling the putter good. Just hopefully I can see a few more go in over the weekend.’’

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