Friday to Forget

Strong winds and the rough end of the draw lead to Wyndham Clark tying his highest score on PGA Tour in over 3 years; Denver native misses cut by 1 in his first Masters; Neal Shipley, 2023 U.S. Am runner-up at Cherry Hills, earns low-am honors

By Gary Baines – 4/12/2024

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Perhaps it was an omen of the dark things to come on Friday for Wyndham Clark. The Denver native wore all black for his second round of the Masters, and nothing good came of it for the reigning U.S. Open champion.

Clark, who came into the week saying he liked his chances in his debut at Augusta National Golf Club, in all likelihood probably didn’t think he’d be battling just to make the 36-hole cut to the low 50 players and ties.

Yet there he found himself on Friday — and he ended up without a weekend tee time in the first major championship of the year. It’s little wonder why, immediately after exiting the scoring area on Friday night, having missed the cut by one, he wasted no time bolting the area, looking none too happy in the process. 

Very difficult conditions — in the form of strong winds — plus not having his A (or B) game, and an interminable second round that lasted a full six hours made for a bad mix for Clark, the No. 4-ranked golfer in the world.

How bad was it for the impending Colorado Golf Hall of Famer who has won three times on the PGA Tour in the last year? His 6-over-par 78 on Friday was three strokes in excess of his next-highest round on Tour this year. And it matches his highest score on the PGA Tour since he posted a 79 in the first round of the Players Championship in March 2021.

Following up a first-round 73, Clark finished at 7 over par. After playing his first 10 holes of the tournament in 3 under, he went 10 over for his last 26 holes.

On Friday, he was 1 under for the day through five holes, but he recorded seven bogeys and no birdies the rest of the way.

Still, the 30-year-old would have made the cut had he not three-putted from 36 feet on the 17th hole, where he hit a stellar slice around trees onto the green after an errant tee shot. But he ended up missing an 8-foot par attempt there. And he still could have made the weekend with a 13-foot birdie on 18, but that putt slipped by the right edge of the cup.

On a day when hats were flying off spectators heads on a fairly regular basis — and the caddie for Viktor Hovland, who was paired with Clark, had to once chase a blown scorecard down the fairway on hole 3 — the wind wreaked havoc with scoring. 

“It’s about as hard a golf course as I’ve seen in a very long time,” said defending champion Jon Rahm, who backed up a first-round 73 with a 76.

The average tally in round 2 was 75.079, the highest at the Masters since day 3 in 2016 (75.719).

“The way the ball is moving on the greens, chip shots are being blown,” noted Tiger Woods, the five-time Masters champion who made the cut at 1 over par (73-72) and stands in 22nd place. It was Woods’ record 24th consecutive made cut at the Masters.

Co-leader Max Homa shot a second-round 71, one of just eight sub-par scores on Friday. (File Photo: Joel Marklund)

“It was extremely challenging,” said Scottie Scheffler (66-72), who shares the 36-hole lead with Max Homa (67-71) and Bryson DeChambeau (65-73). “The winds were up very high, and it blows from everywhere out here. I couldn’t really describe how windy it is and how difficult the gusts are just because I think you just have to be out there and experience it. Like hitting shots into 11 and 12 today, it’s so difficult.

“Everything out there is extremely difficult when it’s this windy.”

And perhaps no one took the brunt of the windy conditions more than Clark, Hovland and Cam Smith. Because of the 2.5-hour delay in the start of play on Thursday due to overnight rain, the threesome never came close to having a morning tee time the first two days. As is the case at many tournaments, teeing off in the morning is an advantage with softer conditions, less wind and purer putting surfaces. 

The way things played out with the tee times, Clark, Hovland and Smith started at 1:24 p.m. on Thursday and dead last on Friday — 2 p.m. Cumulatively, no one had later tee times for the two days.

Also not helping matters was the fact that, with the wind leading the contestants to take extra time, round 2 for Clark, Hovland and Smith lasted an astonishing full six hours. They started at 2 p.m. local time and finished at dusk — at 8 p.m. straight up.

One hole — the formidable 520-yard 11th hole, playing straight into the wind on Friday — took 35 minutes along for Clark and company.

Clark was fine through five holes on Friday — at even par for the tournament — but he played his next five holes in 4 over, suddenly putting him in danger of missing the cut. 

Along the way, the Colorado native began getting visibly frustrated on a few occasions, starting with leaving an approach shot from the fairway on No. 7 in a fried-egg lie in the front bunker. Two holes later, he spun a short wedge shot off the green on No. 9 and took another bogey.

Clark had another rough stretch from 14 through 17, where he went 3 over in four holes. A poor chip on 14, an imprecise wedge into 15 and the three-putt on No. 17 all proved costly. 

With Clark’s ability to hit the ball a very long way — he was second, behind only amateur Christo Lamprecht, in average driving distance through two days of the Masters, at 320.1 yards — and his good putting in the last year or so, he figured to be a good bet to contend at the Masters. 

As it turned out, though, Clark didn’t take advantage of the par-5s at Augusta National. In fact, he played the eight par-5s — through two days — in 2 over par. That cost him almost four strokes to the field as a whole over two rounds. 

Clark also didn’t get anything going with his putter. Through two rounds he sank one putt of 10 feet or more — an 11-foot par that avoided a three-putt at No. 5 on Friday.

Clark is scheduled to resume play next week at the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Neal Shipley stands in 30th place after two days of the Masters. (Photo: David Paul Morris)

And the Low Amateur Is: It only took two rounds to determine the low amateur for the 2024 Masters. And it is none other than Ohio State golfer Neal Shipley, who earned a spot into the field by finishing runner-up in the 2023 U.S. Amateur held at Cherry Hills Country Club south of Denver.

Despite a 4-over-par 76 in Friday’s windy conditions, Shipley stands in 30th place at 3 over par, easily making the cut. The other four amateurs in the field didn’t make the weekend. 

“I was certainly thinking about low am” coming into the tournament, Shipley said. “I thought I had a chance to compete with all those guys. I thought I showed that yesterday. In those really tough conditions, to shoot 1 under, (I showed) that I belong out here. It’s just kind of a matter of proving that.”

Shipley was actually 3 under par for the tournament through 21 holes, but went 6 over par the rest of the way on Friday.

Notable: At age 61, 2000 Masters champion Vijay Singh advanced to the weekend, posting scores of 75-73. So did three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson, 53, who went in 73-75, and two-time champion at Augusta National Jose Maria Olazabal, 58, who carded scores of 77-73. … Six-over is the highest 36-hole cut, relative to par, on the PGA Tour since the 2020 U.S. Open (+6) and highest at the Masters since 2017 (+6).

For all the scores from the Masters, CLICK HERE.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. The University of Colorado Evans Scholar alum was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates