Justin Rose made it a personal one-on-one affair in the second round of the Masters on Friday, although none of the Englishman's fellow competitors were locked into his gaze at Augusta, Ga.
Rose maintained his lead through the midway point of 2021's first major, remaining at 7-under par 137 withan even-par 72 in the second round when he went into attack mode against the legendary Augusta National course.
The field did manage to close a sizable gap, going from four shots behind Rose after Friday's first round to a single shot after Will Zalatoris (68) and Brian Harman (69) moved to 6 under. Another shot back at 5 under were 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth (68) and Australia's Marc Leishman (67).
As the field of 88 was reduced to 54 for the weekend, notable players who failed to reach the 3-over cut line were defending champion Dustin Johnson (5 over), 2017 champion Sergio Garcia of Spain (4 over), four-time major winners Brooks Koepka (5 over) and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy (6 over), and 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson (7 over).
Also headed home were Matt Kuchar (4 over) and England's Lee Westwood (5 over).
If Thursday's front nine was challenging for Rose, it was even more daunting Friday. Rose was 2-over par through seven holes in his opening round before he found a new gear. On Friday, he was 3 over through seven with four bogeys and a birdie as his lead was slipping away.
Instead of getting flustered, Rose went to work on the back nine with no bogeys and birdies at Nos. 13, 14 and 16 to get his round back to even on the day.
"I had a little talk with myself on (No.) 8 and said, 'You're still leading the Masters,' " Rose said. "I just changed my mindset a little bit and started to play match play against the golf course. I scratched a line on my scorecard and told myself I was three down and could I go ahead and beat the golf course from that point on.
"I had a putt on 18 to win my (personal) match 1-up, but unfortunately it just slipped by. But an honorable draw."
Rose might become more of a scoreboard watcher on the weekend as he sets his sights on his first Masters title after runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017, when he fell in a playoff to Garcia.
Recovered from a back injury last month that occurred at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rose is prepared to do the heavy lifting it will take on Saturday to give him a chance to wear the green jacket late Sunday.
"We know the winner of this tournament largely comes out of the final pairing on Sunday," Rose said. "I'd much rather kind of get up the lead as early as we can (Saturday) to try to hold that position going into Sunday."
Zalatoris, a 24-year-old who is playing on the PGA Tour this season through special temporary membership status, put himself in contention with his own impressive back nine.
After playing the front nine at 1 over, Zalatoris blistered the back with five birdies, three of which came on his final three holes.
"I knew I was playing good golf and I had two pretty good looks on 3 and 8 that I let get away from me," Zalatoris said. "I knew it was in there somewhere but when I made the par putt on 10, that was a big momentum boost, and making a couple 30-footers on 11 and 12, that's just a big bonus. I hit great putts that just happened to go in."
Harman, who has not finished better than 44th in his two previous appearances at Augusta, was in a tie for second place overnight for the second-consecutive day. He shot 69 in each round.
Harman, a 34-year-old Georgia native, finished Friday with consecutive birdies. He went from qualifying for the Masters just two weeks ago, based on world rankings, to being in contention at the midway point.
"I had some nerves this morning for sure," Harman said. "Whenever you look up on the leaderboard and you see your name up there pretty high at Augusta, it's hard not to get nervous. I was nervous. But it was nice to settle down with a good birdie on 2, and I struck it well all day."
Others poised to make a charge on Saturday were a group of six at 4 under, including Tony Finau and Austria's Bernd Wiesberger, who tied for low round of the day at 6-under 66. Also at 4 under is Justin Thomas (67) and South Korea's Si Woo Kim (69), who broke his putter at the 15th green yet closed with three consecutive pars while putting with a fairway wood.
Defending U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau made a move with a 67 on Friday and is in a group of four tied for 17th at 1 under. Defending PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa (69) was in a group of four tied for 13th at 2 under.
Patrick Reed (75), the 2018 champion, will head into Saturday's third round at 1 over.
Just able to get into the weekend was three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson. The 50-year-old shot an even-par 72 on Friday with a two-day total of 3 over, while 55-year-old Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain (71), a two-time champion, was at 2 over.
--Field Level Media