AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A lot of things can happen on the weekend at Augusta National, but one factor might dominate how things play out over the next few days at the 2018 Masters Tournament. And it won't be anyone inside the ropes.
Enter Mother Nature.
Bad weather is headed toward Augusta, which could cause all kinds of trouble, both logistically and strategically, for Saturday's third round.
The weather is about to start getting rough
Saturday's forecast called for a 100 percent chance of rain. That means we should expect rain. And possibly thunder. And possibly delays.
The Masters, though, has not moved the tee times. Paul Casey will go out at 10 a.m. ET, as scheduled. Casey is expected to be alongside Augusta National member Jeff Knox, who will serve as a marker.
Now players have to prepare for the worst. What they really want, though, is for the conditions to be consistent for the entire field.
"Hopefully, it's kind of the same for everyone," Rickie Fowler said after his second-round 72, which put him at 2-under for the tournament and seven shots behind leader Patrick Reed. "I'd like for it to ... stay consistent throughout the day. If we're playing later, then maybe it clears up for us. Just play with what we get. I don't mind playing in some weather. I've played some great golf in tough conditions, whether it's wind, rain. I've played The Open Championship and played well in it. Just take it in the right mindset knowing that you just have to go out there and battle it and get the best out of it."
Augusta already requires focus. One yard here or there, and birdie can turn into bogey -- or worse -- in a blink. In bad conditions, all of that becomes heightened.
"The one thing that you've kind of got to look out for -- because the fairways are all mowed into the grain, everything is mowed into the grain -- is you will see some mud balls over the next two days," said Jordan Spieth, who sits at 4-under and five shots back of Reed. "Maybe not while it's raining [Saturday], but on Sunday. There's nothing you can do about it. You've just got to be aware, and obviously, it becomes a tactical golf course when the conditions get tougher or you're presented with kind of tough breaks like that, and I think that's an advantage for me. I feel like I tactically play this golf course very well."
Even if there is a delay, expect all 72 holes to be wrapped up by Sunday evening. The last time the Masters was forced into a Monday finish was 1983, when Seve Ballesteros won his second green jacket.
Patrick Reed, the lead and overcoming history
Reed enters the weekend holding a two-stroke lead over Marc Leishman. That's good news, right? Well, not entirely. Since 2000, any player with a two- or three-shot lead after 36 holes who had not yet won a major -- Reed is seeking his first -- has not won the Masters.
The only other major in which Reed has held a 36-hole lead was the 2015 U.S. Open, in which he was tied with Spieth at 5-under at Chambers Bay. Reed stumbled to a 6-over 76 on that Saturday and ended up finishing tied for 14th.
Spieth is lurking again. He is not the only big name in pursuit. Henrik Stenson is third, four shots behind. Along with Spieth, Rory McIlroy is five behind at 4-under. Then come Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas at 3-under. Those five players have a combined 10 major championships among them.
"Everyone wants to win, and if you don't believe you can win them, then you probably shouldn't be playing in them," Reed said. "I believe that if I play the golf that I know how to play, I can win majors."
Reed is playing as well as he ever has at Augusta National. He entered this week having never broken 70 in 12 career rounds at the Masters. He changed that by opening with 69-66 to sit at 9-under 135.
"I feel like I've done all the work," Reed said. "I feel like I know where I need to leave the golf ball ... and it's now just going out here and executing the game plan and staying disciplined enough to actually stick to that game plan. I've been doing that the first two days, and it's allowing me to kind of attack this golf course and not make a lot of mistakes."
When the key groups hit the course
Tiger Woods has no chance, right? But can anyone else make a big charge?
Let's be clear: Woods has no chance. He trails Reed by 13 shots. That's too much ground to make up over two days. Woods still believes, though.
"Even though I'm a lot behind, if I play a special weekend, shoot two rounds in the mid-60s, you never know," he said after Friday's 75.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the largest deficit for an eventual champion after 36 holes was Jackie Burke Jr. in 1956. Burke erased an eight-shot deficit to claim the green jacket. Fifteen players have come back from at least five shots behind. Charl Schwartzel was six behind after 36 holes when he surged on the weekend to win in 2011.