If you wanted drama and star power for the weekend at Augusta National Golf Club, the 83rd edition of The Masters has more than delivered. There is more star power atop the leaderboard than on the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard.
Five players share the 36-hole lead, and each of them — Italy’s Francesco Molinari (2018 Open Championship), Australia’s Jason Day (2015 PGA Championship) and Adam Scott (2013 Masters), South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen (2010 Open Championship) and American Brooks Koepka (2017 and ’18 U.S. Open and 2018 PGA) — has at least one major championship title.
“It must have happened at some point, but this is really stacked,” Scott said. “I think it’s going to be an incredible weekend no matter what happens now. There are so many great players in with a chance.”
Actually, five players with major titles have never shared the lead after any round in any major. In fact, it’s the first time since the 2002 PGA Championship that any five players — with or without a major title — have shared the 36-hole lead at a major.
And, oh, by the way, Tiger Woods, with his 14 major championships, and Dustin Johnson, with his 2016 U.S. Open title, are only 1 shot back.
There are nine players within a shot of the lead through two rounds for the first time in Masters history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The previous record was seven. In each of those instances, the winner came out of that group: Bubba Watson in 2012, Jack Nicklaus in 1966 and Arnold Palmer in 1960.
Given the soft conditions and perhaps even more bad weather coming, it seems like any one of them is capable of doing something special in the final two rounds to win and slip on a green jacket at Butler Cabin come Sunday night.
“As long as you’re within a few of the lead going into Sunday, you always have a chance, especially around here,” Johnson said. “You can always make some eagles, you can make a lot of birdies if you’re playing well.”
The big names at the top aren’t the only players in contention. Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm are 2 shots back. Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Augusta native Charles Howell III are only 3 behind. An even larger group, including Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, is still in contention at 3 under through 36 holes.
“Look, [Saturday’s third round] is a very important day, because there’s no doubt someone in this top 15, or a few of them, are going to play very well,” Scott said. “This is the best players in the world on the biggest stage that we all want to be in so badly. So [Saturday] is about getting really focused and keeping it all together, and just pushing along.”