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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press photos Rickie Fowler tips his hat on the 18th green at Friday's second round of the Masters, where he is tied for the lead.

  • Sergio Garcia, who shares the lead, reacts to a shot on the 15th hole during Friday’s second round.

  • Associated Press Branden Grace of South Africa reacts after holing a chip for an eagle on the 15th hole during Friday’s second round of the Masters.

Saturday, April 08, 2017 1:00 am

tHe Masters

Ready 4 the weekend

4-way tie for lead first in 44 years; many within striking range

DOUG FERGUSON | Associated Press

Key hole

Hole: No. 1

Yardage: 445

Par: 4

Stroke average: 4.634

Rank: 1

Key fact: A brutal opening hole that played more like a par-5 into the wind. Only three players managed birdie, including Sergio Garcia to spark a run of three straight birdies at the start of his round. More typical were bogeys (80), double-bogeys (11) and six scores that were even higher, including a quadruple-bogey 8 for defending Masters champion Danny Willett. He missed the cut by a single stroke.

Leader board

Second round

Augusta National Golf Club

Par 72 (36-36)

Charley Hoffman 65-75-140

Sergio Garcia 71-69-140

Thomas Pieters 72-68-140

Rickie Fowler 73-67-140

William McGirt 69-73-142

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rickie Fowler only wanted to make sure the wind didn't blow him away over two tough rounds at the Masters. More than just survive Friday, he posted a 5-under 67 that gave him a share of the lead for the first time in a major.

He has plenty of company. Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Charley Hoffman joined him in the largest 36-hole logjam at Augusta National in 44 years.

Fifteen players were separated by a mere five shots going into the weekend, a group that includes Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, and even 57-year-old Fred Couples.

“I knew the first two days would be tough. We really needed to make sure we could fight through it and stay in the tournament,” Fowler said. “We're in a good spot. It's going to be a fun weekend. We're going to see a lot of good golf and battle it out.”

Fowler began his move early by holing a bunker shot for eagle on the second hole, and even a bogey from the water behind the green on the par-5 15th green didn't ruin his day. He bounced back with a birdie and stayed in the lead.

Garcia, playing his 70th consecutive major and still looking for that first victory to define an otherwise strong career, wasn't the least bit bothered by seeing the wrong score for him on a leader board behind the 13th green when a penalty for a lost ball was mistakenly attributed to him. He fired a 3-iron across the water and into the wind to the 15th green for a two-putt birdie and shot 69.

Pieters made an eagle on the par-5 13th on his way to a 68. Hoffman's four-shot lead was gone in 11 holes, and he steadied himself the rest of the way to limit the damage to a 75.

The leaders were at 4-under 140.

The last time there was a four-way tie for the lead at the halfway point of the Masters was in 1973, when Bob Dickson, Gay Brewer, J.C. Snead and Tommy Aaron were tied at 3-under 141. Aaron went on to claim his only green jacket.

Hoffman had a chance to keep his distance until he ran off five bogeys in a six-hole stretch, including a three-putt from 4 feet at the par-5 eighth. His lead was gone when he sprayed another tee shot into the trees at No. 11. He played 1 under the rest of the way, though he still was 10 shots worse than his score on Thursday.

“Everybody was talking about how great that round was yesterday, but it was pretty easy to me – making putts, hitting good, solid golf shots,” Hoffman said. “Today I think I sort of felt how hard it was for everybody else in this wind when you got out of position.”

Garcia only really got out of position on the scoreboard.

His tee shot on No. 10 clipped a tree and shot back into the fairway, while Shane Lowry also hit a tree and couldn't find it. All three were wearing dark sweaters during the search, and the scorers were confused with who lost the ball. Garcia made bogey, dropping him to 3 under. A few holes later, however, it was changed to 1 under on the scoreboard, and Garcia pointed to the board behind the 13th green.

It eventually was fixed, though that was of no concern to the 37-year-old Spaniard.

“The most important thing is I knew where I stood,” Garcia said.