Korea’s An hangs on to leaders’ coattails after another tough Masters day

Hun AnKorea’s Byeong Hun An was hanging on to dear life and anything that he could, including his cap, on another wind-swept day at the Masters Tournament on Friday. A battling one-over 73 in the second round meant he also found himself hanging onto the co-leaders’ coattails, with the coveted green jacket firmly in his sights.

The 32-year-old produced two wonderful birdies late in his round at Augusta National to stay in the title fight at the year’s first major and will enter the weekend five shots back of Scottie Scheffler (72), Max Homa (71) and Bryson Dechambeau (73), who lead on 6-under.

“I thought yesterday was hard until I played it today, and it felt harder,” said An, who stands at 1-under with six others. “I think the wind was a little stronger today. My hat wasn't staying on my head for a couple of the holes.”

Another tricky day saw winds blowing from between 24 to 32kph, with gusts of up to 56kph. Only eight players returned under par scores, while eight others shot 80 or worst, including reigning FedExCup champion Viktor Hovland who carded an 81 to be amongst the high-profile names to miss the halfway cut set at 6-over.

It got so hard that An, who is making his fifth Masters start and his first since 2020, felt he could have easily made bogeys in each of his back nine holes, especially when he had three in a row from the ninth. A combination of measured shots and some lucky bounces saw him make pivotal birdies on the par-5 13th hole and par-3 16th hole, where he miraculously chipped in from 33 yards off an awkward lie.

“The back nine got very tricky. I got very lucky on a few shots, lucky bounces here and there, and then I don't know how I shot even par on the back. That's pretty impressive,” said An, whose best Masters finish was T33 in 2017.

“It's not a joy at all. It's not fun playing in these conditions. It's definitely a battle out there. It's a grind. There's no easy holes. I could have made eight, nine bogeys in a row on the back nine, not because I was playing poorly but just the conditions. Somehow I scrambled well to shoot even par on the back.”

An is still seeking a first PGA TOUR victory, let alone a major win where only two Asian male golfers, Y.E. Yang (2009 PGA Championship) and Hideki Matsuyama (2021 Masters Tournament), have achieved the feat. He knows he needs to have instill morel trust into his golf swing, although conditions are forecasted to be a touch better over the weekend.

“You try to make the best swing you can. I wasn't able to do it today. I hit some poor shots out there all because the wind got into my head a little bit before I hit it,” said An, who has three top-10s this season and currently ranks seventh on the FedExCup points list.

“Just have to hit a shot and accept every outcome that you get out of this wind and move on to the next hole because it's such a difficult golf course to scramble around. I felt like I did that pretty good today.”

Matsuyama (74) and An’s compatriots, Tom Kim (78) and Si Woo Kim (76), made the 36-hole cut right on the number while Masters debutant Ryo Hisatsune (78) and Sungjae Im of Korea (74) failed to advance into the weekend.

Tiger Woods, meanwhile, rewrote more Masters history by breaking a tie with Gary Player and Fred Couples when he extended his streak of consecutive made cuts at Augusta National to 24 after carding a 72 to sit on 1-over, just seven back of the leaders.

The 82-time PGA TOUR winner and five-time Masters champion is not prepared to only think of making cuts in whatever limited appearances that he makes these days following spells with various injuries and surgeries. “I'm here,” he said. “I have a chance to win the golf tournament.”