The Masters 2022: Scottie Scheffler pulls five shots clear at halfway and Tiger Woods hangs tough

The World No. 1 proved his class in the second round at Augusta National.

Less than two months ago Scottie Scheffler was widely admired as one of the world's finest young golfers, but there were lingering doubts concerning his ability to win.

In just two and a half years on the PGA Tour he had impressed time and time again in elite company. The 25-year-old was 6-for-6 at landing Major Championship top 20s, he'd finished top five and runner-up in World Golf Championship events, and, in all, he'd recorded 11 top five finishes.

But the win stubbornly refused to come.

Then, in early February, the dam broke and in some style.

He started the run with victory in the WM Phoenix Open in early Feburary (a regular tour event).

Three weeks later he handed the Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill (one of the PGA Tour's five prestigious Invitational events).

Another three weeks on, he claimed the Dell Match Play (a World Golf Championship title).

Can he possibly maintain such spectacular progress? Another three weeks have elapsed, another victory is within his grasp, and the level of competition has risen again: he leads at the halfway stage of the Masters by five shots on 8-under 136.

He owes the opportunity to a sparkling lap of 5-under-par second round of 67 which turned a pre-round two-shot deficit into that dominant lead over Charl Schwartzel, Sungjae ImShane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama.

His day began in tricky fashion, with bogeys at the first and second sandwiching a birdie at the second. He then steadied the ship with three pars in a blustery wind.

When he made a move he did so in rat-a-tat style. There were back-to-back birdies at the seventh and eighth, then the 12th and 13th, and finally at the 15th and the 16th.

"I feel like my game is in a good spot," he said afterwards.

"I've managed my game well this week. I've got some good breaks, but when I have got in bad positions this week I've got back in play quickly.

"There's a bunch of other guys in the field and there's a long way to go. But having the lead gives me confidence. I saw I had the lead at some point today and I pushed on. If I commit I should be fine.

"The front nine was a grind, the wind was crazy. I think we were a little fortunate that it died down on the back nine."

Players who have held a five-shot lead at this stage are 4-for-5 at converting the win.

He holds his advantage over that quartet of players, who each had contrasting tales to tell at the end of Friday.

For South Africa's Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, his 69 was an astounding contrast with his recent form: he's missed his last six cuts (and in that period nine times failed to break 74).

The pre-round leader Im played his back nine in the most difficult conditions of the day and laboured to a 74.

Lowry opened with a bogey, but was thereafter superb, ticking five birdies, including a brilliant pitch-in at the 10th, in a 68.

Japan's Matsuyama made just one error against four par breakers in his 69 as he seeks to become just the fourth champion to successfully defend his Green Jacket.

Joint-low round of the day honours (equalling Scheffler) went to Justin Thomas' 67 which not only confirmed his weekend acitivity, but left him 1-under for the week with an outside look at the win.

Woods continues to astound

Beyond Scheffler's brilliance the big story of the day was the recovery of Tiger Woods.

His round began in poor fashion, with four bogeys in his first five holes.

An ignominious missed cut was beginning to look like a possibility after the glory of the first round, but that overlooked the fierce pride and competitive instincts of the 15-time Major Champion.

A solid par breaker at the eighth was followed by a second of the day at the 10th, courtesy of a sensational approach shot to kick-in range.

He erred at 11 and 12 in the wind, but responded with two immediate bounce back birdies.

He signed for a 74 and heads into the weekend T19th on 1-over 145.

"I've got a chance going into the weekend," he said. "It's going to be cool tomorrow. I think it's going to be the golf course that Augusta National wants. It's going to be quicker, dryer, faster, and it will be a great test.

"Hopefully I'll have one of those light bulb moments and turn it on in the weekend and get it done. If you are within five or six going into the back nine, anything can happen. I need to get myself there. That's the key. I need to get myself there."

READ MORE: The Masters A to Z: From Anyone can win it to (Fuzzy) Zoeller via Eerie music and Jim Nantz

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