Friday, May 25, 2018

Four tied for Masters lead (w/ video)

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 had plenty of company. Sergio Garcia (69), Thomas Pieters (68) and Charley Hoffman (75) joined him at 4-under 140, the largest 36-hole logjam at Augusta National in 44 years. And the fun was just starting.

The wind gusts up to 40 mph began to subside late in the afternoon, and the forecast was close to perfection for the rest of the weekend, with mild temperatures and hardly any wind.

Fifteen players were separated by a five shots, a group that also included Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and 57-year-old Fred Couples.

"It's going to be a fun weekend," Fowler said.

Age is just a number

Fred Couples, 57, put himself in contention at the site of his only major championship, won a quarter-century ago. Not that it should be surprising. He has been a perennial challenger at the Masters since turning 50. He led after the opening round in 2010. He led at the midway point in 2012. He was second heading to the weekend in 2013. Friday he was three shots off the lead, at 1-under 143, after shooting 2-under 70 in the second round. "I really know the course very well," Couples said. "I feel like my age is still okay because I can drive it far enough. I'm not long like I used to be on this kind of course, but it still plays where I can reach a lot of these greens with shorter clubs to make the ball stop around the hole."

Sergio keeps calm

For a while, it looked like Sergio "Winless in 74 Major Appearances" Garcia's chance of winning the Masters had taken a major hit. The tournament's internal scoring system listed him with triple-bogey 7 on the par-4 10th, briefly dropping him four shots off the lead. Augusta National eventually said a score-reporting error had been made — not by Garcia — and he had merely made bogey, leaving him at 2 under for the tournament.

Garcia had hit a provisional ball after he hooked his tee shot into the left tree. But he found his original ball and played it from there, making 5 instead of incurring a penalty if he had had to play his second shot. Garcia, 37, whose younger self would have been fazed by the scoring error, said he wasn't worried: "I knew where I stood." And the player considered one of the best to have not won a major finished the day tied for the lead at 4 under after 3-under 69.

'16 champ gone

Danny Willett missed the cut of 6 over by one after 78, becoming the first defending champion to miss cut since Mike Weir in 2004. "We hit a lot of good golf shots but didn't really make the most of them," Willett said. "And when we hit a couple of bad ones, we got the worst score we could."

Number of the day

74.92 Sergio Garcia's third-round Masters scoring average, the tournament's worst over the past 30 years (minimum 10 rounds)