AUGUSTA (REUTERS) - It's shaping up to be Scottie Scheffler's year.
The 25-year-old had not won on the PGA Tour before 2022, when he strung together three wins in two months to soar to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Now Scheffler will sleep on a five-shot lead at the Masters after Friday's (April 8) second round in Augusta, Georgia.
"I feel like I've been very committed to my shots," Scheffler said. "I've done a really good job mentally of just setting up to the shots and accepting hitting bad ones and being fully committed to hitting good ones.
"For me I've prepared for a long time to be in moments like this and to win golf tournaments. And like I said at the beginning of the week, I've done all the preparation I can do."
He picked up four birdies on the back nine on his way to a 5-under 67 that moved him to eight-under for the tournament. It put him five clear of a four-way tie for second: defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Im Sung-jae of South Korea, Shane Lowry of Ireland and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.
Schwartzel's 69 stood as the low round in the early wave of golfers as windy conditions led to overall higher scores than in the first round. Im, the first-round leader, and Cameron Smith of Australia, who was in second at four under, came back to the field with rounds of 74
Smith is now tied for sixth at two under with 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, Harold Varner III and Kevin Na.
Fifty-two players at Augusta National Golf Club made the cut of four over or better, including Tiger Woods, who dropped from one under to one over with a second-round 74. Woods had an inauspicious start with four bogeys in his first five holes, but birdies at Nos. 8, 10, 13 and 14 helped him make it to the weekend.
It marked Woods' 22nd consecutive made cut at the Masters. He is playing his first official tournament since a single-car accident left him with gruesome leg injuries 14 months ago.
After two bogeys and three birdies over his first 11 holes, Scheffler's key stretch began with a 12-foot birdie at the par-3 12th that put him alone at five under. Despite a wayward second shot at the par-5 13th, he finished Amen Corner with an up-and-down for birdie.
After another birdie at No. 15, Scheffler landed his tee shot at the par-3 16th within five feet for his seventh and final birdie of the day.
Only one other player matched Scheffler's 67: Justin Thomas, who made six birdies and just one bogey to improve on his first-round score by nine shots and move to 1 under, in a tie for 10th.
Lowry made the turn in one under and lofted a high shot over a bunker at No. 10 for a memorable chip-in birdie. He added two more birdies at the remaining par-5s to post a four-under 68, the third-lowest round of the day.
"I didn't enjoy it really much at all. It was so hard out there," Lowry said."Look, it was one of my better rounds of my career, I think. It was quite tricky out there, quite difficult, and I managed to play some good golf and hole some nice putts at the right times."
Matsuyama did most of his damage in the first six holes, where he birdied Nos. 2, 3, and 6, before playing the rest of his round to par for a 69. He is vying to join Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo as the only back-to-back Masters champions.
Varner, in his Masters debut, carded his second straight 71 with four birdies and three bogeys. Like Lowry, he also holed out a chip at the 10th green for birdie.
"I never forget, Tiger told me the greatest thing," Varner said. "I asked him, 'What does it take to win?' He said, 'You quit worrying about winning, you'll keep it.' It's helped my demeanour just do what I'm good at, play golf, hit the shot that it calls for."
After an opening-round 69, Johnson bogeyed No. 7 Friday, hit a high-hanging tree branch at the eighth on his way to saving par, then couldn't convert a sand save at the ninth and bogeyed again.
From there, Johnson parred all nine of his remaining holes, staying afloat and putting himself in good position for the weekend.
Stewart Cink, 48, carded a hole-in-one at No. 16 by using the natural slope of the green to roll his ball back to the pin. Both Schwartzel and Varner flirted with aces in the same manner earlier in the day.
Among the notable names to miss the cut were 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth (six over), four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka (six over), Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion Xander Schauffele (seven over), Gary Woodland (eight over), England's Justin Rose (eight over) and Bryson DeChambeau, who posted an eight-over 80 to drop to 12 over.
South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen withdrew before the start of the round, citing an injury.