Augusta, GA (Sports Network) - Entering the tournament, Bubba Watson's chances of a Masters repeat were admittedly slim. But a missed cut? That was almost as unlikely.
The defending champion will at least have a shot at the former after narrowly avoiding the latter Friday with a late scramble.
Watson was 5-over for the tournament through 14 second-round holes, but he rebounded with back-to-back birdies to move inside the projected cut line of 4-over.
After a par on No. 17, the left-hander missed a par putt from inside 10 feet on the last and his fate was in the hands of leader Jason Day, who was two groups behind.
Day was 6-under, and a birdie on the last would have pushed Watson outside the cut line. But the Australian parred the hole and the reigning champ, with a little help, earned the right to stick around for the weekend.
Watson is a long way from becoming the fourth player to successfully defend his Masters title, but at least he didn't join the eight former champions who missed the cut a year after donning the green jacket.
The last defending champ to miss the weekend was Mike Weir in 2004. The others were Jack Nicklaus (1967), Tommy Aaron (1974), Seve Ballesteros (1981, 1984), Sandy Lyle (1989), Ben Crenshaw (1996), Nick Faldo (1997) and Jose Maria Olazabal (2000).
GUAN, 14, MAKES CUT
Like Watson, 14-year-old amateur Tianlang Guan was saved by Day's par on No. 18.
Guan, the youngest-ever Masters participant, is 4-over and through to the third round despite receiving a 1-stroke penalty Friday for slow play. He is the youngest player to make a cut on the PGA Tour, surpassing Bob Panasik, who made the cut at the 1957 Canadian Open when he was 15
WILL THEY END THE DROUGHT?
Day and his three fellow Australians in the field are doing their best to make their country proud.
Never has an Aussie won the Masters, but Day, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and John Senden are poised to eradicate that dubious domestic distinction.
Day turned in the low round Friday at 4-under 68 to grab a 1-stroke lead over first-round co-leader Leishman (73) and Fred Couples (71). Scott is tied for seventh at 3-under after a second-round 72 and Senden (70) is knotted with five others a 2-under.
The drought dates to 1950, when Norman Van Nida carried the Aussie banner for the first time at the Masters. Day and Scott recently came close, tying for second in 2011, but the streak lives on.
The last major victory for an Australian came in 2006, when Geoff Ogilvy won the 2006 U.S. Open.
Rory McIlroy was 2-over for the tournament early in his second round, but the world No. 2 picked up the pace as the day unfurled and put himself in favorable position heading into the weekend.
The Northern Irishman was a stalwart off the tee Thursday, but inaccuracy with his irons led to an opening-round 72. Friday, bogeys on Nos. 1 and 3 had McIlroy in a hole, but he dug himself out, starting with an eagle on the par-5 eighth, where he reached the green with his second shot from 275 yards away.
Back-to-back birdies starting at No. 13 got McIlroy to 2-under, and after a bogey in the 16th, the reigning PGA Championship winner dropped his approach within 10 feet at the last and drilled the putt for another birdie.
"The eighth hole really got me going, really kick started me," said McIlroy, who is tied for 14th place. "Then I started to hit some really good, quality shots. I took advantage of a couple of easier holes on the back nine."
McIlroy is coming off a runner-up finish at the Texas Open after starting the season with a missed cut in Abu Dhabi, a first-round loss at the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship and a withdrawal at the Honda Classic.
Despite his recent struggles, the former world No. 1 can make it back-to-back major victories with a weekend rally.
* Guan was the first player to receive a slow-play penalty in major since Steve Lowery at the 2004 PGA Championship. In a fitting twist, tournament referee John Paramor was the man that assessed both penalties.
* Guan was the only amateur to make the cut. Steven Fox (13-over), T.J. Vogel (8-over) Nathan T. Smith (11-over), Michael Weaver (8-over) and Alan Dunbar (16-over) finished outside the line.
* The hardest hole of the second round was the par-3 fourth, which played to an average of 3.41 strokes. The hardest overall hole thus far has been the par-4 first, which has played to an average of 4.33 strokes through two rounds.
* The easiest hole of the second round was the par-5 eighth, which played to an average of 4.72 strokes. The easiest overall hole thus far has been the par-5 15th, which has played to an average of 4.64 strokes through two rounds.
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