Englishmen Westwood and Poulter two shots clear at halfway


Augusta (Georgia): The top of the Masters leaderboard had a distinctly English flavour as Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter set the pace at the halfway point, keeping their noses in front of prowling World No.1 golfer Tiger Woods.

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Westwood shot a 3-under-par 69 and Poulter went one better with a 68 as both men finished on 8-under-par, two shots clear of the chasing pack, led by Woods and another former champion, Phil Mickelson here Friday.

It could have been even better for both men as Westwood reached 10-under-par at one stage and Poulter made it as far as 9-under, only for both men to bogey the final hole.

But on a day when scoring was far more difficult than the first round, Westwood and Poulter were two of only three men to break 70.

With 36 holes to go, both men may begin dreaming of winning their first Major. But with a host of big names close behind, the tournament is still wide open.

For the second successive day, Westwood drove the ball beautifully and played superbly all around, helped by a brilliant eagle at the par-five second.

After 13 holes, he was 10-under-par and two shots ahead but he then made a hash of the 14th and double-bogeyed it to fall back. A birdie at 15 got one shot back but he found the trees off the tee at the last and could only make bogey.

Nevertheless, he ended up in a share of the lead at halfway, the first time he has ever topped the leaderboard after a round in a Major.

“All in all I am delighted how it’s gone so far,” Westwood said. “I know my game’s up to a good enough level now to compete.

“My long game has always been up there, but I’ve improved my short game a lot. I made some good two-putts today.”

Poulter, who broke into the world’s top 10 earlier this year on the back of his triumph in the Accenture World Matchplay Championship, was on course for a bogey-free round until he too came

to the 18th, where a bogey dropped him back to 8-under.

“I enjoyed it very much,” Poulter said. “When you hit the ball very well it is a joy to play here. I was really solid today and had plenty of chances. I hit a lot of good golf shots.

“In the last 18 months I’ve put a lot of work into my game. My putting, I’m very confident with that in my hand. If putts aren’t going in they are having a look and burning the edges.

“I do feel calm on the golf course, I was very calm at the Matchplay and not been nervous here all week.”

Woods is bang in contention after a 70 to follow his 68 on day one put him on 6-under-par. “I played well all day and played a lot of good shots,” he said.

“I played a lot better today than yesterday. The conditions are very difficult out there, it’s difficult to pick a club with the way the wind is gusting around.”

Mickelson joined Woods on 6-under-par after a testing round, but fine birdie at 17 got him to within two of the lead, right in the thick of things for the weekend.

Anthony Kim, KJ Choi and Ricky Barnes were also on 6-under-par, one better than US PGA champion YE Yang. Overnight leader Fred Couples suffered a nightmare finish as he bogeyed four of the last five holes to finish with a 76 and drop back to 3-under-par, while Tom Watson was alongside him after a 74 to go with his first-round 67.

Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy were among some of the fancied names to miss the halfway cut, which came at 3-over-par.