By Ed Osmond
AUGUSTA, Georgia, April 7 (Reuters) - Danny Willett was left relying on the golfing gods to avoid become the first defending U.S. Masters champion to miss the cut since 2004 after struggling to a six-over-par 78 in the second round on Friday.
The Englishman, who carded 73 on Thursday, made a quadruple-bogey eight on the first hole before a solitary birdie and three bogeys, including one at the last, left him seven over par for the tournament.
The projected cut score is six over, although that could change with high winds continuing to make low scoring difficult at Augusta National.
“It would be nice if we can get given a little bit today from the golfing gods,” Willett told reporters. “It’s an amazing place to be, especially with the weather that’s coming in. We need a little bit of luck.”
Willett was happy with the way he played overall.
“We hit a lot of good golf shots,” he said. “We hit a lot of good golf shots all year, but haven’t gotten anything,” he said, in reference to his good shots not bringing low scores.
“The golf course is set up tough. Around Augusta right now you’re averaging 75 and 76 now because it’s tricky golf.”
Willett felt the course set-up and conditions had punished every small error he made.
“Same as today, when you hit a few good ones you don’t really make the most of it,” he said. “And when you hit a couple of bad ones, you get the worst score you could.”
The 29-year-old Willett shot a flawless 67 in the final round at Augusta last year to win his first major title but he has not tasted victory since.
“It’s been a tricky 12 months, we haven’t played great golf,” he said.
“But by the same token if you look at the career that we’ve had, we’ve not really had a slump in form in two years. We’ve had two fabulous years. I‘m still a Masters champion.”
Canadian Mike Weir was the last Masters champion to miss the cut 12 months after donning the Green Jacket. (Editing by Andrew Both and Ken Ferris)