John Senden probably didn’t have much business being on the Masters leader board. After bogeys on two of the first four holes Friday, he was 2-over par and facing an Augusta National golf course that was getting tougher with every gust of wind.
But he stopped his slide and found a zephyr of momentum, riding it for six birdies over the next 14 holes and climbing into second place, three strokes behind Bubba Watson.
Senden finished off a 4-under-par 68 with a clutch chip-and-par save at No. 18 and finds himself as the low Australian in contention one year after Adam Scott claimed the country’s first Green Jacket.
“It felt more like a 64,” Senden said, referring to the firm, breezy conditions.
Senden bogeyed No. 1 and No. 4, but then caught fire. He played the last 14 holes in 6-under, starting his run with birdies at Nos. 5, 7 and 8. He also birdied Nos. 11, 14 and 15, but looked in trouble after he hit the left trees with his drive at No. 18 before salvaging par.
In his four previous Masters appearances, Senden missed the cut three times and last year tied for 35th place.
“I’ll be nervous on the first tee tomorrow,” Senden said. “I’ve been nervous every day teeing off. That’s a good thing. But it’s about me just doing the work, just get out there, get it down the middle and play the next shot.”
He’s 42 and a journeyman on tours in Europe, Asia, Australia and the United States. Without golf, Senden once said, he’d be “working on a sheep-and-cattle station owned by the in-laws.”
He certainly seemed to be headed for the weekend without work early in the second round. But Senden survived and turned around his chances this week.
“It’s a new experience for me,” said Senden, who earned his Masters invitation by winning the Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing in March. “I just have to play my game and keep believing and do my best. Hopefully that’s good enough.”