Friday at the Qatar Commercialbank Masters was an altogether calmer day than the one that preceded it. Where Thursday had been all about four-club winds and oscillating balls, Friday was a race for many to regain touch with the leaders, those sturdy souls who’d hung around the par mark while all around them plummeted down the leaderboard.
Retief Goosen, whose dogged 69 saw him sit at the top of the leaderboard overnight, could only manage a round of 71 and was passed by a number of players more willing to take advantage of the relatively benign conditions. Stellar rounds from notables Thomas Bjorn (65) and Paul Lawrie (66) saw them leap into contention from an overnight position of mid-field obscurity, but not quite as impressively as Austrian Marcus Brier, whose 66 was enough for sole possession of the lead at seven-under. Defending champion Robert Karlsson is also lurking somewhat ominously; he’s just two back.
The schizoid weather was always going to claim a couple of high profile casualties, and they don’t come more high profile than World Number One Lee Westwood. He’s heading to Dubai a couple of days prematurely after a lacklustre 75 saw him miss the cut by a shot. Gone too is the seemingly resurgent Paul Casey.
The most amusing missed cut of the day surely has to be that of Henrik Stenson, who, as if to underline his status as Europe’s most mercurial talent, raced to the turn in 31, seizing the morning headlines with a run of birdie-birdie-eagle, only to play his final four holes in six-over par and miss the cut by three (‘Stenson Back in Business’? I think not).
American exchange student Steve Stricker just scraped in under the wire. He sits alongside aspirant World and European Number One Martin Kaymer, who’ll need a big weekend if he’s to dethrone Westwood by Sunday evening.