Golf

4-way tie for Masters lead includes fan favorites Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia

Fred Couples reacts to the crowd after the birdied the 18th hole during the second round of the Masters on Friday in Augusta, Ga.
Fred Couples reacts to the crowd after the birdied the 18th hole during the second round of the Masters on Friday in Augusta, Ga. tdominick@thestate.com

The winds finally quieted Friday, allowing some of golf’s biggest names to make noise on the second day at the Masters.

Calmer conditions in the afternoon allowed players to fire at the pins, resulting in lower scores and creating a four-way tie for the lead featuring fan favorites Rickie Fowler and Sergia Garcia and lesser-knowns Thomas Pieters and Charley Hoffman at 4-under par.

Sitting two strokes back are North Carolina native William McGirt and Justin Rose (both 2-under), while lurking a little farther down the leader board are 57-year-old Fred Couples (1 under), Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson (even par) and Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar (1 over).

Saturday’s third round will feature some marquee pairings, most notably Mickelson and Spieth.

Expect more roars.

Three who mattered

Rickie Fowler: The 2012 Wells Fargo champion had the day’s best round with a 5-under 67. Fowler, looking for his first major, is among a group of four tied at the midway point.

Sergio Garcia: The Spainard, trying to shed the “best player never to win a major label,” fired a 69 and is in contention for a green jacket in his 74th career major.

Fred Couples: The 1992 Masters champ has been in this position in previous years, before faltering over the weekend. If his balky back can hold up, Couples will try to turn back time.

Observations

It’s hard not to root for Larry Mize, 58, who made the cut on the 30th anniversary of his chip-in playoff victory over Greg Norman in 1987. Mize is the only Augusta native to win the Masters.

Lee Westwood had long uphill putt from off the green at the par-3 sixth. Westwood didn’t hit it hard enough, and the ball rolled directly back and settled almost in its original spot. Westwood took a harder jab at it the next time, and salvaged a bogey.

Former Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, who retired in January while citing his health, was spotted on the course for the second consecutive day.

Garcia, Westwood and Shane Lowry were all dressed in blue sweaters and light pants. That became an issue on No. 10 when scorers, mistaking Garcia for Lowry, thought Garcia hit out of bounds and gave him a triple-bogey 7. It was later corrected to a bogey.

Worth mentioning

The cut came at 6-over par. Among those missing it were defending champion Danny Willett (7 over), reigning British Open champion Henrik Stenson (7 over) and Charlottean Webb Simpson (8 over).

Willett could have defended his title if not for the first hole, which he played 6-over par in two rounds. Willett stumbled through a quadruple-bogey 8 on Friday that included a shank on his second shot, when Willett was positioned on the edge of a fairway bunker. So Willett will watch for two days before handing over the green jacket.

Simpson shot 75-77 to end his stay, with two double bogeys on the back nine Friday sealing his fate. The Quail Hollow resident has missed the cut in three of his six Masters, and his best finish was a tie for 28th in 2015. Simpson’s five-year exexmption as the 2012 U.S. Open champion is done, so he’ll have to win a tournament, crack the top 50 in the world rankings or play well in a major to make it back to Augusta next year.

Westwood will need a miraculous comeback to avoid extending his majors drought. Westwood shot a 78 on Friday and is 3 over for the tournament, seven shots off the lead. Westwood has played 75 majors without winning one, more than any other player.

They said it

“You've got a couple of guys that are in at 4-under par right now. The wind is supposed to be basically nonexistent. I would say a couple of rounds in the mid to high 60s you'd have to shoot to have a chance.” – Rory McIlory, who is 1 over and five shots off the lead.

“It's what you play golf for is try to win major championships. Obviously as a kid, you want to be on the PGA Tour and just win a PGA Tour event. And as you go a bit deeper in your career, you want to contend in majors.” – Hoffman.

“Golf is tough. I don’t know if you’ve ever played it. But writing articles is easy.” – two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, who missed the cut.

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