AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There is no talk of redesigning the course at Augusta National halfway through the 62nd Masters. Two days of strong winds have produced roller-coaster rounds and scores tight enough to promise what didn't materialize last year.
Drama rather than history.
A close finish rather than a runaway.
"The course is winning," said Fred Couples. "I'm leading with David Duval, but Augusta National is doing what it's supposed to do."
Couples, who won here in 1992 and led after the opening round Thursday, and Duval, perhaps the hottest player in the world in the last eight months, did what few in the field could do yesterday. They hung on and maintained their share of the lead.
With birdies on four of his last six holes, Duval finished with a 4-under-par 68 -- tying him for the lowest score of the day -- and a two-round score of 5-under 139. Couples wound up even with Duval after a 2-under-par 70.
Scott Hoch, who bogeyed two of his last four holes to finish with a 1-under-par 71, is two shots behind. Five players, including defending champion Tiger Woods (72) and former champion Jose Maria Olazabal (73), are four shots behind.
"Personally I'd rather be leading because that's four shots I have to make up," said Woods, who at this time last year was 8-under and three strokes ahead on his way to a record 12-shot victory and a record score of 18-under par. "But being in the top 10 in a major with two rounds to go, you're in perfect shape."
Woods, trying to become only the third player to win back-to-back Masters, could have been in even better position. After sharing the lead briefly at 3-under with birdies on the eighth and ninth holes, Woods bogeyed the par-4 10th and also the par-5 15th before making a 15-foot putt with a double-break to save par on the par-4 18th.
It left him with a positive frame of mind going into today's third round.
"I'm still in the ballgame," said Woods, who played before what might have been the largest second-round gallery in memory because of his grouping with Fuzzy Zoeller and Colin Montgomerie. "It's nice to finish at even par."
Also in contention at 1-over 145 were the tournament's winningest player, six-time champion Jack Nicklaus (72), two-time and reigning U.S Open champion Ernie Els (70), as well as former champion Zoeller (74) and Ian Woosnam (71). Montgomerie, who struggled with a 3-over 75, is tied with Jim Furyk (70) and Andrew Magee (72) at 146.
With much of the attention focused on Woods and Zoeller, Duval played in relative anonymity and quietly began his march up the leader board. It was a long march, considering that Duval had begun his day at 5 a.m. after not finishing his first round Thursday and going to bed at 1 a.m.
Duval was at the club by 6: 30, hitting balls in darkness. He was back on the course when play was resumed at 7: 30 and completed his last three holes by 8. He went back to bed at 9 and got up again at 11. He returned to Augusta National by around 1 p.m., ate a sandwich and was back on the first tee at 1: 50 p.m.
"It's something I had to do," Duval said about having to finish one round and start another some six hours later. "I wasn't going to think of it as being possibly an advantage or disadvantage. Certainly when you're trying to win a golf tournament, you play what's dealt to you."
Duval, 26, will be trying to win his fourth tournament in less than a year. After finishing second seven times and third four times in his first three years on tour, Duval won the last three events last year, including the Tour Championship. He also won this year's Tucson Open.
"I always felt like I'd win golf tournaments out here," said Duval, a former All-American at Georgia Tech. "It's just being patient, waiting for your time to come. When you come into a tournament here, it is the Masters and a major, but it's the same people you've competed against in other events where you've won."
FTC Asked about a certain guy lurking four shots off the lead, Duval said, "Well, I gave up four shots on one hole [at Tucson] when I was leading, too. So I don't put too much weight in that right now."
While Duval will be trying to win his first major, Couples will be trying to win his second. It has been six years since Couples confirmed his status as the No. 1 player in the world by winning the Masters. He has won four times on the PGA Tour since, most recently at the season-opening Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January.
"The feelings I have are tomorrow's another round," said Couples, 38. "You know, I remember winning this tournament like yesterday. But I don't remember many shots. I don't remember what I shot every round. I can't look back and say I'll do what I tried to do that time. I put myself in a position where if I come out tomorrow and play well, I'll have a shot to win Sunday."