One bunched leader board

Masters 2020: This amazing major championship first is why the weekend at Augusta is shaping up to be awesome

JD Cuban

The old saying goes that the Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday. The road to get there, though, is shaping up to be riveting in its own right.

Already, history has been made at Augusta National.

Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas are among five players tied for the lead after the first two rounds, all shooting matching nine-under 135 scores. It marks the first time in any major that the first-, second- and third-ranked players in the world have sat atop the leader board after any round of any major championship.

But they’re hardly alone in pursuit of the green jacket. It’s a crowded bunch at the top.

Sharing the lead with the aforementioned trio are Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Australia’s Cam Smith, teammates on last year’s International Presidents Cup squad. No Mexican player has ever won the Masters.

Meanwhile, five more players lurk just a single stroke back, including Patrick Cantlay, who just two weeks ago held off Rahm and Thomas to win the Zozo Championship at Sherwood Country Club. Also among that group are 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed and Hideki Matsuyama, who is seeking to become Japan’s first major champion.

The list of notables in contention don’t stop there, either. Danny Willett, who won the Masters in 2016, is at seven under, along with 2012 U.S. Open winner and 2017 Masters runner-up Justin Rose. Tommy Fleetwood is also at seven under.

If all of this seems familiar, it should. A year ago in one of the most riveting Masters tournaments in history, five players were tied for the lead.

Meanwhile, there were 22 in all tied at the top or within four strokes of the lead after the first two rounds. Among them this year are the game’s two biggest stars, defending champion Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, both tied for 17th and at five under.

Which brings us to another bit of history. Thirty-four years ago, Jack Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket and 18th career major at age 46.

Where did Nicklaus stand after the first two rounds at Augusta National that year? Tied for 17th.