Rory McIlroy’s dreams of landing an elusive Masters title look to be over this year after a stormy day two at Augusta saw play cut short and fans avoid injury from falling trees.
Three trees fell next to the 17th tee, moments before play was suspended because of electrical storms.
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy shot a 77 which puts him five over, with the cut projected to come at two over.
Brooks Koepka leads on 12 under from amateur Sam Bennett on eight under.
American Koepka was one of three overnight leaders and moved further ahead with a five-under 67 on Friday.
Bennett, a 23-year-old American making his Masters debut, is his nearest challenger in the clubhouse after a four-under 68.
Collin Morikawa, the 2021 Open champion, shot another 69 to move six under, with his American Ryder Cup team-mate Jordan Spieth – the 2015 winner – and Australia’s former world number one Jason Day a shot behind on five under.
Defending champion and world number one Scottie Scheffler struggled with the putter as he carded a three-over 75 to leave him on one under.
Fans avoid injury after trees fall
The early starters managed to complete their rounds at Augusta National before play was suspended twice by the weather.
The first stoppage came at 15:10 local time (20:10 BST), but the threat passed quickly and play resumed after a 20-minute pause.
Increasingly gusty winds led to three trees falling at the side of the 17th holes, where many patrons were sat and forced to quickly move.
Augusta officials confirmed there were no injuries.
“The safety and well-being of everyone attending the Masters Tournament will always be the top priority of the club,” added organisers.
A first horn sounded after the trees had fallen and a second followed shortly at 16:25 (21:25 BST) to signal the return of thunderstorms in the area – just as Scottish veteran Sandy Lyle was preparing to take the final putt of his stellar career.
Lyle, 65, became the first British player to win the Masters in 1988 and recently announced he was retiring after playing once again at the scene of one of his greatest triumphs.
He is one of 39 players – along with Koepka’s overnight co-leaders Viktor Hovland and Jon Rahm – who must return to finish their second rounds on Saturday after play was called off at 17:46 local time (22:46 BST).
The long delay could give a massive advantage to those already in a clubhouse.
Slicker greens, higher winds and colder temperatures could prove pivotal in deciding who wins the famous Green Jacket – and more unpredictable weather is forecast over the weekend.
There have only ever been five Monday finishes in the Masters’ 89-year history but there is the real prospect this could be the first since 1983.
Another Masters opportunity passes by a subdued McIlroy
Much of the talk before one of the most exciting weeks in the sporting calendar centred around McIlroy’s prospects of finally completing a career Grand Slam.
The 33-year-old won the last of his four majors in 2014 and triumphing at the Masters would see him become only the sixth man to earn a clean sweep.
Ranked second in the world and with four wins on the PGA Tour in the past 10 months, many felt this would finally be the year when he achieved golfing immortality.
McIlroy cut a relaxed yet focused figure in the build-up, but he looked overcome by tension during a second round which started with four bogeys in the opening seven holes.
Another bogey on the par-four 11th was caused by pulling his approach left into the pond, leaving him exasperatedly shaking his head as missing the cut looked increasingly likely.
There was some respite in the shape of birdies at the par-five 13th and 15th holes, but any hopes of a late recovery were dashed with more bogeys on the 16th and 18th.
Barring a miracle, it means one of the pre-tournament favourites – alongside Scheffler and Rahm – looks likely to miss the weekend.
The scale of McIlroy’s disappointment was made clear by his rare refusal to do any post-round interviews.