Patrick Reed in the lead after round two of The Masters

Patrick Reed will head into the weekend of the Masters with the halfway lead as Rory McIlroy kept his career Grand Slam hopes alive after a high-quality second round at Augusta National.

After overnight leader Jordan Spieth slipped down the leaderboard, Reed built on a flying start to fire a nine-birdie 66 which earned him the outright 36-hole lead on nine under, giving him a two-stroke lead over Australian Marc Leishman.

McIlroy battled hard to add a 71 to his opening 69 which earned him the early clubhouse lead on four under alongside Spieth, who could not reproduce his first-round form as he stumbled to a 74 which could have been worse following a double-bogey, bogey start.

The world’s top two players, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, both made ominous strides up the leaderboard, but Tiger Woods needs something special over the weekend after he narrowly survived the halfway cut following a frustrating 75.

McIlroy bounced back from a three-putt bogey at the first to hole from 30 feet for birdie at the second before converting a close-range pitch to the next, although he came unstuck at the fourth and sixth holes to slip to two under.

The 28-year-old broke a run of five pars with a good birdie at 13, and he drained another long putt for a three at the 14th but was unable to convert further chances coming in as he closed on the same score as a struggling Spieth.

The overnight leader made a mess of the first two holes and his challenge for a second title unraveled further at the seventh as he laboured to the turn in 40, but Spieth kept further mistakes off his card and made welcome birdies at 13 and 15 to join McIlroy on four under.

But both were later surpassed by Reed and Leishman, with the American racing out of the blocks with birdies at the first three holes before he gave one back at the tough, par-three fourth.

The Ryder Cup star reeled off another three straight birdies to close out a front-nine 31 and, after his second bogey of the day at 10, he made a nice four at 13 and came within inches of holing his second for eagle at the next.

The resulting birdie and another at 15 added up to his third stretch of three birdies in a row, although he then three-putted from distance at the 16th.

McIlroy remains in contention to complete his career Grand Slam.

Leishman ignored the plight of playing-partner Woods and, like Reed, birdied the opening three holes before the putts dried up as he put together nine consecutive pars, breaking it with a birdie at 13.

He blotted his card at the next, but the Australian responded with a stunning second around the trees to four feet at the 15th which set up only the second eagle of his Masters career.

Leishman parred safely home to stay at seven under, while Henrik Stenson remained on course for his first Masters top-10 finish in 13 attempts as a five-birdie 70 elevated him to outright third on five under.

World No 1 Johnson lifted his spirits early after starting the day one one over, making eagle on the second and capping a 68 with his third birdie of the round at the 18th to move to three under, where he was joined by Thomas, who made three straight birdies from the 13th in a classy 67.

Justin Rose mixed six birdies with four bogeys in an erratic 70 which lifted him to two under in a group that included Rickie Fowler and two-time champion Bubba Watson, while Spanish sensation Jon Rahm is one further adrift after he made four birdies in six holes on the back nine to return a 68.

But Woods did well just to make it into the weekend after he followed a bogey at the first with a six at the fifth, where his approach bounded over the green and into the bushes forcing him to take a penalty drop for an unplayable lie.

Woods also found water at the 12th for the second day running and again managed to salvage a bogey, but the 42-year-old gave himself breathing space with priceless birdies at 13 and 15, although he dropped another shot at 16 and parred in to close on four over par.

His long-time rival Phil Mickelson made the cut with nothing to spare after he equalled his worst score at Augusta, a 79 which included an ugly triple-bogey seven at the ninth, and he ran up a five after a visit to Rae’s Creek at the 12th as he scrapped his way to an inward 41 and tumbled to five over.

But Sergio Garcia faces a long weekend hanging around to present the Green Jacket to this year’s winner, the defending champion finishing third from bottom on 15 over after a 78, with his tournament effectively over following his disastrous 13 at the 15th on day one.

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