AUGUSTA, Ga. — The wind roaring through the Georgia pines gave so many golfers everything they could handle Friday at the Masters.
And then Scottie Scheffler made it even harder.
On his debut as the new world No. 1 player, Scheffler looked the part. He was bogey-free over the final 15 holes for a 5-under 67, tying the Masters record by building a 5-stroke lead heading into the weekend.
Only four other players in Masters history have led by five shots after 36 holes, most recently Jordan Spieth in 2015. All have gone on to win.
The 25-year-old Scheffler, Texas Longhorn, has won three of his last five PGA Tour starts and doesn’t seem outmatched at the Augusta National stage.
He was 8-under 136, five strokes clear of defending champion Hideki Matsuyama (69), former champion Charl Schwartzel (69), former British Open champion Shane Lowry (68) and leader of 18 holes Sungjae Im (74).
Former Masters champion Dustin Johnson (73) led a group to 2-under 142, while another group included two-time major champion Collin Morikawa and former PGA champion Justin Thomas, whose 67 went tied Scheffler for the low round of the day.
Scheffler quickly cleared up his mistakes and started to take control with two birdies just before making the turn. After a hard save from the right of the 11th green, he added two 12-foot birdies on the par-3 12th and a hard shot from well to the right on the par-5 13th.
By then the wind began to die down in the late afternoon and Scheffler began to pull away with two more birdies which made him a clear and difficult target this weekend.
And to think that only two months ago, he still had no victory on the PGA Tour.
Thomas, meanwhile, opened with a 76 and spent the rest of the day sulking at what looked like a lost chance.
He capped off his 67 with three consecutive birdies along the back nine.
“I could very easily go home right now, and not only am I not, but I’m very well placed for this weekend,” Thomas said.
He was still seven behind, though he wasn’t the least bit surprised that Scheffler was able to post such good laps to build a big lead.
“If I played like I should yesterday, I should be there with him,” Thomas said. “This place, I love it because you can birdie so much — even in conditions like this, if you plot your path and know how to go about it, you can birdie a lot. It exposes you when it becomes that wind if you don’t have control of your ball.
“He’s clearly in control right now based on the last two months, so I’m not too surprised,” Thomas added. “But yeah, I’d appreciate it if he stopped going too far.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.