If slow and steady wins the race …
• After starting with 2-over 74, Phil Mickelson came back with 4-under 68 that put him 2 under for the tournament and three off the lead. Asked if he liked his position going into the weekend, Mickelson said: "Are you kidding me? After (Thursday's) round, I love it. … There's a lot of time left, and there's a lot of birdies out there, and I get to slide off before the leaders. If I make a move, they get to see those numbers being posted ahead of them, and that's not always easy."
• Rory McIlroy, who finished birdie-birdie Thursday, came close to finishing bogey-bogey Friday. He had a share of the lead until bogey on 17, and on 18 he got up-and-down to save par after a badly pulled approach shot that missed the green left. His 3-under 69 had him one shot off the lead. "To sort of stay patient and hang in there, I felt like I did that pretty well," he said.
Compiled from Times wires, ESPN.com, PGATour.com
Tiger's tale in reruns again
It was an emotional day for Tiger Woods. A missed birdie chip on No. 12 sent him into contortions. A wayward shot on 16 had him kicking his club. After opening with two birdies on the first three holes, he walked off the course at 3-over 75, his second-worst Masters score (narrowly missing his opening 76 in 2003) and his worst since 2004. He was at 3 over for the tournament, eight shots off the lead and tied for 40th. "I know what to do. It's just a matter of doing it," said Woods, who struggled with his swing for the second straight day. "That's the frustrating part because I'm still creeping into my old tendencies. Eventually it'll become where it's second nature." After his postround interview, Woods went to the driving range to work with coach Sean Foley. He stayed until dark. Woods never has been worse than fourth after 36 holes in the years he has won the Masters. In all 14 of his major victories, he had never posted a score worse than 69 in the second round. "The tournament is not over," Woods said. "I can do this. I've just got to be patient."
Couples in contention again
Before there was Tiger, Rory, Sergio or Phil, a smooth-swinging guy named Freddie used to make 'em go crazy at the Masters. He can still make it interesting. Fred Couples turned back the clock Friday during a seven-birdie second round that even brought a fist pump and a "Bam!" from the 52-year-old and put him in a tie for the lead with Jason Dufner. Couples shot 5-under 67, the same score he posted 20 years ago during the second round of his Masters win, one of the most crowd-pleasing wins in the history of the tournament. Were it not for the gray hair beneath his cap, this might have been confused for a replay of that '92 win. "Standing out there, I said, 'What the (heck)' a lot. What do I have to lose here?" Couples said. Couples, a winner on the senior tour two weeks ago, has been around the Masters leaderboard before in his 50s. Two years ago he opened with 66 and became the oldest player to hold the outright lead after the first round. Last year he shot 68 on Friday to push his way into the top 10. A win would make him the oldest major winner, four years older than Julius Boros was when he won the PGA Championship in 1968.
Finish of the day
First-round leader Lee Westwood spent most of the day staying in the lead, but he three-putted on the 18th green for double bogey to close his day at 1-over 73 and 4 under for the tournament. "The double at the last (hole) was a disappointing way to finish," Westwood said. "But if you get out of position slightly on this course, it can punish you."
Garcia doesn't know if he can win
Sergio Garcia was supposed to shed that "best player never to win a major" label years ago. Yet here he is, 32 and still searching.
The Spaniard climbed into contention with 4-under 68, which left him a stroke behind leaders Fred Couples and Jason Dufner. It was only his sixth round in the 60s in 14 trips to Augusta National and third since 2009.
Garcia is 0-for-53 in the majors. Yet, no player has more top 5 or 10 finishes in a major without a win than Garcia, the Elias Sports Bureau says. He has been in the top 12 in each of the past three majors (T-12th PGA Championship, T-9th U.S. Open, T-7th U.S. Open).
"I don't know if I'm ready to win. We'll see," said Garcia, playing with an infection in the nail of the middle finger of his left hand. "I wish I could tell you I'm ready to win, but I really don't know. So I'm just going to give it my best try, and you know, hopefully that will be good."
Meet Jason Dufner
The guy sharing the second-round lead with Fred Couples after 5-under 67 isn't an unknown. At last year's PGA Championship he led by five with four holes to play before hitting a tee shot into the water on No. 15 and ultimately losing to Keegan Bradley in a playoff. In all, Dufner, 35, has been a runnerup three times, twice finished third and posted 18 career top-10 finishes. But he has no wins in 162 starts.
He is also very quiet and low key. So you may be surprised to know that:
• He exchanges text messages with fellow Alabama native and former Auburn basketball star Charles Barkley.
• He has an economics degree from Auburn.
• He used to eat Taco Bell every Saturday because he thought it was good luck.
• He says the Masters doesn't make him as nervous as his upcoming May 5 wedding.
"I feel like I have the same emotions and same thought processes as a lot of guys, but I seem to not show it quite as well as some other players," Dufner said.