Korea’s Lee sparkles 67 as Tom Kim and Si Woo ensure cut; Woods hangs by a slender thread and McIlroy is out -
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Korea’s Lee sparkles 67 as Tom Kim and Si Woo ensure cut; Woods hangs by a slender thread and McIlroy is out

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PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA – MARCH 17: Kyoung-Hoon Lee of South Korea plays his shot from the ninth tee during the second round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on March 17, 2023 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images).

From V Krishnaswami in Augusta

Augusta: Korea’s K.H. Lee brilliantly carded the joint low score of the day with a 5-under 67 on Friday to make the weekend rounds of the weather-hit Masters Tournament and was joined by countrymen Tom Kim and Si Woo Kim.

The year’s opening major was disrupted by inclement weather twice in the afternoon before play was suspended for the day, but well before American Brooks Koepka signed for a bogey-free 67 and 12-under 132 total, tied for third lowest in the tournament history, to seize the clubhouse lead at Augusta National.

World No. 3 Jon Rahm of Spain was sitting on 9-under through nine holes of his second round before being called off the golf course while amateur Sam Bennett delivered  a second straight 68 to sit in solo third on 8-under.

Legend Tiger Woods, a five-time Masters champion and 82-time PGA TOUR winner, was also battling for a record-equalling 23rd successive cut at Augusta National where he is presently on the projected cut line at 2-over with seven holes to play.

World No. 2 Rory McIlroy crashed out as his hopes of completing a career Grand Slam ended with a dismal 77.

A year after missing the cut in his maiden Masters appearance, Lee, who is a two-time PGA TOUR winner, hit seven birdies, including four over his closing 10 holes for a share of 18th position on 3-under and will be fired up with the knowledge that a low round on Saturday would propel him into contention.

Masters rookie Tom Kim also showed his mettle by fighting back from three dropped shots at the turn as he stormed home with three birdies over his last six holes for a hard-fought 72, adding to his opening 70 for tied 22nd place on 2-under while four-time PGA TOUR winner, Si Woo Kim also carded a 72 to sit in a share of 44th place.

A fourth Korean in the elite 88-man field, Sungjae Im was amongst those affected by the weather disruptions and will return Saturday morning with 10 holes to complete. He was level par through eight holes on Friday, and 1-under for the tournament, as he seeks a third top-10 from four starts at Augusta National.

The Asian challenge will also turn to 2021 Masters winner, Hideki Matsuyama as he was cruising on 3-under for the tournament when play was suspended. The 31-year-old Japanese star birdied the two par-5s on his outward nine, leaving himself in position to inch closer to the clubhouse leader.

Defending Masters champion and World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler surprisingly endured a rough day with a 75 as he slipped out of contention on 1-under.

Competing in his first Masters courtesy of his triumph in the U.S. Amateur last year, Bennett, 23, is making the most of the opportunity to challenge the world’s best golfers. With five birdies against a lone bogey on Friday, the slender American is now dreaming of a fairy-tale finish.

“Everybody coming into the week was, yeah, hope you get Low Am,” said Bennett, whose opening 68 on Thursday was the lowest score by an amateur in the first round since Ken Venturi in 1956. “I just wanted to put two good rounds up. I knew my golf was good enough to compete out here. I found myself in a situation that now I’ve got a golf tournament that I can go out and win.”

As he prepares for the weekend, Bennett will inspired by his late father’s sage advice – “Don’t want to do something” which words are tattooed on his left arm. “I see it every time I’m gripping the club, it’s right there, “Don’t wait to do something.” You know, I thrive on it. I use it for some motivation. I know how happy he would be seeing me out here at Augusta National doing what I’m doing. I’ve used it to just stay focused and really be locked in to that one shot,” he said.

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