Garcia, Fowler and Pieters Reach the Summit at Intriguingly Poised Masters
Post by Golf Writer Kieran Clark
Day one leader Charley Hoffman was caught by a squad of impressive names on Friday at the Masters, with Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Rickie Fowler all shooting rounds in the 60s to join the 40-year-old at the summit at four-under, after the American followed his astonishing Thursday total with a door opening 75.
The reigning Texas Open champion had extended his overnight lead early in the day with a birdie on the second, but the gusty winds eventually caught up to him, resulting in five dropped strokes in six holes between the sixth and 11th. However, the Las Vegas resident steadied the ship with by playing the remaining seven in one-under.
He remains in an excellent positon afer two rounds, having tasted this environment in 2015 when attempting to keep pace with a dominant Jordan Spieth. Despite that, most attention will be on his challengers, including Garcia, playing his 73rd major without a victory, a confident and primed Fowler, and the prodigious talent of Thomas Pieters, who is attempting to become the first player to win on his debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
Memorial champion William McGirt is well placed a couple of shots back on two-under, but eyes will fall on those behind him. Former Masters low amateur Ryan Moore, impressive youngster Jon Rahm, 57-year-old Fred Couples, and Justin Rose are sat at one-under, with former champions Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth (who had a nine on Thursday) and Phil Mickelson positoned ominously on level par.
Rory McIlroy experienced an up-and-down second round, but is only five shots off the lead in his latest attempt to become just the sixth golfer in history - after Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Nicklaus and Woods - to complete the career of grand slam of all four major championships.
Last year's winner, Danny Willett missed the cut by a shot after failing to recover from a disastrous quadruple bogey on the first hole, while the likes of Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton will be absent over the weekend after two difficult rounds in uncooperative scoring conditions.
With the breeze and relent and temperature to increase, we can surely expect lower scores on Saturday, with one of the most congested and appealing leaderboards in recent memory contending at the 81st Masters. It has all the ingredients to be a third round to remember as players seek to position themselves with a chance to claim the green jacket on Sunday.
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