The fun really begins as the 74th Masters heads into the weekend.
What a difference 24 hours can make, especially in the game of golf where you play the same venue but not the same tee boxes or hole locations.
The Masters Competition Committee has gotten it right so far in their course set up. Thursday's hole locations were a bit more accessible, due to the threat of inclement weather during the day. That fact was reflected in the 16 rounds in the 60s posted on Day One. Friday was a different story, as only 3 players were able to post rounds in the 60s.
Current co-leaders Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were two of the three, with Poulter notching a 4-under par 68 and Westwood putting up a 3-under par 69. The only other round in the 60s was notched by Chad Campbell, who needed the 4-under par 68 just to make the cut on the number (+3) following an opening round 79.
The expected scenario for the rest of the weekend should be a difficult set up on Saturday (known as "moving day") and more accessible hole locations on Sunday for the final-round fireworks.
In talking with some folks late on Friday afternoon, I was asked, "What happened to Couples...?"
The short answer is that the game of golf happened to Boom Boom. It happens to all of us who play this silly, addictive, painful, joyous, marvelous, wonderful game. The game of golf just happens. No two days, no two rounds, even at the same venue, are the same. Things change, people are human, the swing doesn't feel the same, and the grips don't feel the same.
There is a huge difference between playing with emotion and playing on emotion. When you play with emotion, you play with passion, focus and energy; things seem easy. When you play on emotion, eventually it runs out and the struggle ensues.
For the record, Freddie shot a three-over par 75 and for Boom Boom it's all about two things, how his back holds up and how his putter behaves. Round one on Thursday, everything was smooth as silk; Friday, not so much.
Still, Couples is right there, five shots back heading into round three. He doesn't have to make it all back up in one round, but he does have to move in the right direction.
YOU DON'T KNOW UNION JACK
At the top of the leader board after 36 holes from Augusta National certainly has an international flair to it. Brits Poulter (68-68-136) and Westwood (67-69-136) will be the final group on the course Saturday afternoon.
Poulter has been steady and at times spectacular in his play, owing most of his scoring advantage to the flat stick. In two trips around Augusta National, Poulter has taken only 54 strokes with his putter, offsetting his middle-of-the-pack driving accuracy (19/28 = 68 percent) and greens in regulation percentage (23/36 = 64 percent). Today's five-birdie, one-bogey effort was a perfect example of that.
Poulter is not the longest or most accurate player in the game, but when he is on, the confidence flows, the shots are flawless and the putts drop. Back to back 68s are a testament to the game Poulter possesses and it has nothing to do with his outfits.
Westwood climbed to the top of the leader board with a stellar 5-under par 67 on Thursday's easier scoring day, followed up by a 3-under par 69 that included an eagle, six birdies, seven pars, three bogeys and a double. One thing is for certain, you are going to get every penny's worth when you're following Westwood around the course. The guy can flat light it up and as shown by his tournament leading 13 birdies over 36 holes. What also seems to be certain is that the big Englishman is going to give some back at some point during the round. Regardless, it's fun to watch.
Poulter and Westwood will go off in the last group, at 2:45 p.m. Masters time.
The cut for the season's first major came at +3, leaving several big names on the wrong side of the cut line.
The biggest surprise was Sandy Lyle, one of the names "in contention" after round one following up his first round, three-under par 69 with a second round 14-over par 86.
The former Masters Champ card was a colorful affair on full of circles, boxes and double boxes. Officially, Lyle carded two birdies (on Nos. 13 & 15; the two back nine par-fives), five bogeys and five doubles to go along with his six pars. Wow, that must have felt like a lifetime on the links, regardless of the scenery or circumstances.
Others missing the cut, in a more or less spectacular fashion included:
Tim Clark (75-73, +4) who has played well at Augusta in the past and was considered a dark horse coming into this week.
Teen sensation Ryo Ishikawa (72-76, +4) one of the young guns expected to not only play well, but contend.
Two-time Masters Champ Bernhard Langer (71-78 +5) who followed up a solid 1-under par 71 Thursday with a Friday round that was done in by back to back big numbers at Nos. 9 (triple bogey 7) and 10 (double bogey 6).
Luke Donald (74-75 +5) whose game just hasn't seemed to translate to the big stage.
Three-time Major Champion Padraig Harrington (74-75 +5) who despite putting well (54 total putts over 36 holes) couldn't give himself enough chances to make a move.
Young star Rory McIlroy (74-77 +7) posted two birdies on Thursday and none on Friday.
Current Champion Golfer of the Year, Stewart Cink (76-76 +8) hit only 20 greens, made five birdies, 11 bogeys or worse and took 62 putts over 36 holes.
For Paul Casey (75-78 +9) maybe it was the shoulder injury he was fighting through but certainly the 63 putts in two rounds couldn't have helped.
Jim Furyk (80-76 +12) never got it going after Thursday's 80 and played Hole Nos. 16-18 in 7-over par combined on Thursday and Friday.
Don't look now but the World's Number One player is right there, in contention heading into moving day.
Tiger Woods followed up his solid opening round 4-under 68 with a 2-under par 70 to put himself just two shots back of Poulter and Westwood with 36 holes to play at 6-under par.
Woods made birdies at Nos. 2, 13 & 15, not coincidently three of the four par fives on the golf course. Eldrick's lone bogey came at No. 4, but even that hiccup couldn't damper a fine round that included a much better putting day for Tiger.
From a playing standpoint, Woods doesn't seem to be missing much and regardless of what you think of his off-course exploits, one thing is for certain, he hasn't forgotten how to play the game and he's pretty much executed the shots he's needed when he's needed them. From a golf standpoint, he's right there with the weekend and two players who have never won a major in front of him.
Also in the mix is Phil Mickelson after 36 holes, following up his opening round 67 with a 1-under par 71 to stand at -6 in a tie for third two shots back of the leaders.
Lefty has driven the ball well, given himself some chances and seems on the verge of having a big round. Friday's three birdie, two bogey round is evidence of that. Philly Mick struck it well and it appears that the putter is beginning to heat up. A big move on moving day would set up an interesting Sunday at Augusta.
Some of the more intriguing pairings on Saturday include:
9:45 a.m. -- Defending Champion Angel Cabrera and Robert Allenby. Two great ball strikers who are, at best average putters. But streaky average putters. When they get it rolling, each can go low.
10:45 a.m. -- Camilo Villegas and Steve Sticker. The flashy Colombian and the Cheesehead. Only in golf do you get these matchups. Sweet.
11:35 a.m. -- Jerry Kelly and Scott Verplank. Madison meets Oklahoma.
11:55 p.m. -- Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott. Scott has fought back from a dreadful 2009 season while Garcia is still searching for that first major.
12:35 p.m. -- Kenny Perry and Sean O'Hair. Perry is still playing great golf towards the end of the PGA TOUR career and has a great attitude towards the give and take that is each round. O'Hair is a great young talent that will learn a lot watching how Perry carries himself through Saturday.
12:55 p.m. -- Tom Watson and Trevor Immelman. Watson slipped a little on Friday and Immelman is working back from what seems like years of injuries. Both have little to prove and everything to gain from a strong showing.
1:15 p.m. -- Y.E. Yang and Phil Mickelson. Yang is the reigning PGA Champion and Lefty has won twice at Augusta National. Both have been searching this season for the form that made them each major champions.
1:25 p.m. -- Ricky Barnes and Anthony Kim. Barnes will be staring across the tee box at what he was supposed to become in Kim, one of the next great young players on Tour. This could be a chance for RB to stake his claim in the game. For AK the Houston win was big, this would be HUGE.
1:35 p.m. -- KJ Choi and Tiger Woods. Day three for this pairing and KJ has been handling it just fine. For Woods the week has gone according to script. A tightly controlled, highly organized, very specific script. Good thing the game of golf is unpredictable.
1:45 p.m. -- Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. Saturday will go a long way towards defining where these two players stand in the global game of golf.
A major championship would be a life-changer for either. Who wants it more and can navigate what should be a difficult Augusta National on Saturday.
On the PGA TOUR Saturday is considered Moving Day, the day when players make their move up the leader board. Two things: this is not the PGA TOUR; and, this is not your ordinary event. My guess is that the hole locations will be more challenging in round three, much like Friday so the moving may be downward, especially if a player gets greedy going after a marginal hole location or makes a mistake where you can't miss it.
The weather should be conducive for scoring and the players teeing off early will be great indication of how the course is playing. I would imagine there will be some good scores and that the scoring will fall somewhere between the easy that was Thursday's round and the difficult that was on display Friday.
Tiger and Lefty are in contention; Anthony Kim and Y.E. Yang are in the hunt while Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood sit atop the leader board. Saturday it will be Mad Dogs and Englishman out in the noon day sun, what more could you ask for out of the season's first major?
Live coverage begins on CBS at 2:30 p.m. Central time. Enjoy.