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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- In the middle of the afternoon Friday, Rory McIlroy drew back an iron on the 18th hole at Augusta National. He’d just nuked a drive on the closing hole and had a good number to the flag. He hit it pure.

McIlroy was even par at the time. He knew a birdie would be likely get him inside the top 10 for the weekend. At the same time, on the other side of the course somewhere, Jordan Spieth was teetering. Spieth made two bogeys in his first four holes and was 4 over for the week. The cut looked like it was going to be in play for the man who has finished no worse than second in the last three Masters.

Nearly three hours later, against all odds, Spieth finished one stroke ahead of Rory McIlroy for the first 36 holes and will play one group behind him on Saturday afternoon. 

McIlroy’s shot on No. 18 nailed the pin and bounded back down 30 yards into the fairway. He pitched to four feet and missed the putt for bogey. Meanwhile, Spieth made four birdies in his final 11 holes.

This is how major championships get flipped on their heads.

“I thought it was perfect,” McIlroy said of his final show. “It was a good number. It was one of those ones where you had 10 or 11 yards off the pin, I could bring it back in. I hit a really good shot, just a bit unfortunate.”

McIlroy is 1 over through 36 and five back of leaders Sergio Garcia, Charley Hoffman, Thomas Pieters and Rickie Fowler. Spieth is even and just four back. 

“It was a really good day today at Augusta National,” said Spieth after shooting a 69, the fourth-best round of the day. “I’m very pleased with the second round of this Masters, and we’re in a position now where we, I think, can go out there and win this thing and certainly make a run.”

What has to gall Spieth is that he made a quadruple bogey on the 15th hole in his first round. If he makes par there, he’s tied for the lead. Still, he’s comfortable in this spot. He has finished in the top two all three times he’s played this event. He’ll hunt for No. 4 this weekend. He thinks the course will help him.

“I think these greens are going to bake out, you’re going to see putting become a lot more difficult than it was,” said Spieth. “Even though it was windy, I think the actual putts you have are going to be more challenging because the greens are going to be a foot faster, and they’re going to get a bit crusty around some of the hole locations.  

“They were already starting to get that way. They weren’t firm, fortunately, but they will start to get that way by Sunday. I imagine balls will be bouncing some and it will be a different golf course than what we saw yesterday.”

Spieth showed outrageous fight down the stretch on Friday. The cut looked to be in jeopardy, and then you look up and he’s pouring in a birdie on the final hole of the day and sliding right into the top 10. This is what Spieth does, of course, but it doesn’t make it any less impressive every time it happens. 

Whether he can catch the leaders, nobody knows, but his pairing with Phil Mickelson (also at even par) will be exceptional. 

“The crowds are so great, and they have been so gracious to me and our history out here, and it’s just incredible to play in front of them,” said Spieth. “This is my favorite tournament with the galleries. Here and The Open Championship, those are the two that ... we look forward to the galleries feeding us.  

“And I think that that can happen in both places and especially as you come in this finishing stretch. It looks like I’ll be paired with Phil, we’re both, I’m sure, we’ll enjoy that and try and feed off of it.”

I’m not sure who will enjoy it more between those two and the thousands set to watch two Masters champs go low on moving day. Spieth improbably gave himself the opportunity to win a second green jacket in three years on Friday over the final 11 holes. Let’s see if he can take advantage of it over the next 36.

Here are nine more thoughts from Augusta on Friday.

1. Stewart Hagestad makes history: The Mid-Am winner becomes the first champion of that tournament to make the cut at the Masters. Mid-Am participants must be 25 or older; the event started in 1981. Hagestad shot 74-73 and sits T19 after 36 holes. He won’t win, but that’s a pretty incredible feat to beat Danny Willett, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Thomas, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson over the first two days.

2. Thomas Pieters and Jon Rahm are stout: Beware, those at the top of the leaderboard, Pieters and Rahm are going nowhere. Pieters co-leads and Rahm is just three back. Both are playing their first Masters. Both are definitely not playing their last. On a relate note, the U.S. may not win another Ryder Cup for 20 years.

3. Defending champ Danny Willett misses the cut: Willett missed it by a single stroke, and he becomes the first in over a decade to do so. The Masters will officially have a new winner come Sunday night. This is not a huge surprise given how Willett was playing coming in, but it’s still a bummer to have the weekend off the year after winning.

4. Charley Hoffman comes back down to Earth: You knew it would happen at some point, but that 65-75 is still tough to look at on the scorecard. Still, if you would have told him on Monday he’d be co-leading the Masters on Friday night, he would have taken it. He also still leads the field in birdies made with 11.

5. Fred Couples is three back: Couples went 73-70 and that was with bogeys in two of his final three holes. The man is 57 years old, and he beat Rory McIlroy by two and Jordan Spieth by one over the first two rounds. That’s outrageous!

6. The weather turns: It’s going to stop blowing and start drying out a little bit. How will that affect the top of the leaderboard? Will the great putters get back in it? This tournament is playing a little like two in one with the first two days of Open Championship-like conditions and the last two a proper Masters.

7. Will recent history hold? The last three decades of Masters history tells us that the winner this week is going to be either Charley Hoffman, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters, Rickie Fowler, William McGirt, Ryan Moore, Jon Rahm, Fred Couples, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth or Phil Mickelson. Those are the golfers currently T10 or better.

However, Rory McIlroy lurks just beyond them at 1 over.

“I know more than most what can happen on Sundays around here, good and bad,” said McIlroy. “It’s just all about getting yourself in position ... but I feel like I need something in the 60s tomorrow at least to get myself in there. 

8. Adam Scott is not being discussed: He has eight bogeys and a double bogey, and he’s somehow four back. If he can clean it up on Saturday, he could be in the hunt for green jacket No. 2 on Sunday. Also, his pairing with Justin Rose on Saturday is going to be a ball-striking extravaganza.

9. The hunt is on: I said on Thursday that Hoffman would be hunted after slapping together a big first round lead. Now, it’s the final three pairings that will be chased. Those six golfer have zero major championships combined. The six pairings preceding them? They have 17 combined.