AUGUSTA, Ga. - Talk about an unkind cut.
The qualifying number for the weekend at the Masters came in at 4-over-par 148, and the likes of Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Webb Simpson, and past champions Charl Schwartzel and Zach Johnson will not be seen any more this year at Augusta National Golf Club.
Mickelson, three-time winner of the green jacket, was betrayed again by his short game. He carded a triple-bogey 6 at No. 12, going from front bunker to back bunker with his second shot, and back bunker to front bunker with his third.
"There was no sand where I was at," Mickelson said of the first bunker shot. "I caught the liner of the bunker and bladed it across the green. The same thing happened on the other side. It went back and forth, three bunkers, before I finally got it to stay on grass."
Mickelson rallied with birdies at 14, 15, and 17, but a bogey at 16 stunted his charge. He finished with a 73 for 149.
The cut at the Masters is the low 50 players and anyone tied for 50th, plus those within 10 strokes of the lead. With Bubba Watson running away at 7 under par, the 10-shot rule did not apply.
Rory McIlroy, the last player to finish the second round, had to sink a five-foot par putt to become the 51st player to make the cut. He has Saturday's first tee time, 10:15 a.m., and will play with a non-competing marker.
"It was very frustrating," said McIlroy, who shot a 77. "I just really couldn't get anything to go my way."
It's him again
If it's Friday at the Masters, Fred Couples must be contending.
The 54-year-old Couples put himself in position yet again at the halfway point of the year's first major with a 1-under-par 71. He was tied for seventh place at 142, 5 strokes off the lead.
It marked the fifth straight year that Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, held a spot in the top 10 through two rounds.
"Can I win it? Yeah, that's why I'm here," Couples said. "I can't compete with these guys over a year, but on one week I can compete, and I have to do it" Saturday.
He must improve in that area. In the last two years, Couples has fired a 75 and a 77 in the third round.
"I felt the pressure last year, but I really didn't play poorly," he said. "I made triple on 17, which really looked bad. Then I didn't play too bad on Sunday to have a good finish. But I want to play better" Saturday.
Twenty-year-old Jordan Spieth can become the first Masters rookie to win the tournament since 1979, and the youngest winner of all-time. But he's not getting ahead of himself.
"I'm still far from contention; we're only at the halfway point," he said after shooting a 70 that put him in a tie for third. "I think contention is the back nine Sunday. But I'm in a position to put myself into that contention and see what I can do."