Breaking down the leader board logjam

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
11:51
PM ET
AP Photo/David J. PhillipFred Couples, who has the best career average at the Masters among golfers with at least 100 rounds, is in position to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his 1992 title with another green jacket.
The leader board firmed up early in the second round at Augusta, as the seven players who finished at 4-under par or better through 36 holes started in the first 15 groups. The result was a Masters record-tying seven golfers within one shot of the lead after two rounds.

This is the seventh time in Masters history that five or more golfers are within one shot of the lead through 36 holes. In the six previous instances, the eventual winner came from that group.

Sixty-three players made the cut this year, tied for the second-most at the Masters, trailing 1966 by a single golfer. The other time that exactly 63 players made the cut was 1992 – current co-leader Fred Couples won that year.

Looking at the Co-leaders
Couples and Jason Dufner are tied atop the leader board at 5-under par.

Couples, 52, is looking to become the oldest winner of a major championship. Julius Boros was 48 years old when he won the PGA Championship in 1968. The oldest Masters winner was Jack Nicklaus, who donned the green jacket at 46 after winning in 1986.

Couples entered this year's Masters with the best career scoring average among players with at least 100 rounds. He has had success recently as well. Since 2010, only Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood have a better scoring average at the Masters than Couples among players to play all three years.

Dufner has never won on the PGA TOUR, but has finished in the top-five in two of his last four starts in a major. He lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley at last year’s PGA Championship.

Three players have won the Masters as their first career PGA TOUR victory, including Charl Schwartzel last year.

The chasers
The quantity atop the leader board is also high quality.

Rory McIlroy, who won last year’s U.S. Open, is one shot back. Since the 2010 Masters, he has finished 12 rounds in the top-five at majors and eight as either the leader or co-leader.

Also at 4-under are perpetual bridesmaids Westwood and Sergio Garcia. The two have combined for 29 top-10 finishes in majors without a victory. Westwood has finished second twice at Augusta, and Garcia has finished as runner-up in three majors.

Multiple major winners Vijay Singh and Mickelson lurk three shots behind the leaders; past Open Championship winners Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Lawrie are in the top-10.

Tiger drops off pace
Tiger Woods shot a 75 on Friday, his worst second-round score at the Masters and tied for his second-worst score as a pro at Augusta. Woods failed to birdie a par-5 on Friday, just the third time he has failed to do so during the Masters.

Tiger has never won a major when outside the top-five or with a score worse than 2-under through 36 holes.

Looking ahead to Saturday
The only Masters champion in the last 25 years who was not inside the top-10 after 36 holes was Schwartzel last year.

The largest comeback at the Masters after the second round is eight strokes, by Jack Burke in 1956.

Only one 36-hole leader has won the Masters in the last six years. Trevor Immelman shot a third-round 69 in 2008 on his way to victory.

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