By Steve Keating
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia may have made peace with Augusta National but there is no surrender in the fiery Spaniard who fought his way to a share of the second-round clubhouse lead at the U.S. Masters on Friday and contention for an elusive first major.
Garcia began a chilly, breezy day six back of overnight leader Charley Hoffman and got his round off to a scorching start with birdies on his first three holes.
The Spaniard would give one back with a bogey at the fourth, his first of the tournament, then answer with another birdie at the ninth.
The inward nine would prove more challenging with bogeys at 10 and 13 but Garcia held steady, closing with birdies at 15 and 17 for a rock solid three-under 69 that he rated among his
best rounds at Augusta.
"It is the kind of golf course you have to know a little bit and kind of make peace with it," explained Garcia. "Things are happening at the moment.
"I want to make sure that I keep riding that wave and go out there tomorrow, be positive, be like I've been the first two days."
Playing in his 71st consecutive major and 19th Masters, Garcia has known more major heartbreak than most, much of it coming at the year's first major.
A nine-time winner on the PGA Tour with a dozen wins on the European Tour, the 37-year-old Spaniard has never quite delivered on the promise he showed as a precocious teenager touted as a rival to Tiger Woods.
While Woods went on to celebrate 14 major wins, Garcia has disappointed on golf's biggest stage, finishing runner-up a frustrating four times in the majors.
He was left so crestfallen following a third-round collapse at the 2012 Masters that he declared he would never be good enough to win a major.
It was clear on Friday, however, that Garcia's competitive fires still burn fiercely with the Spaniard agonizing over almost every shot.
The highlight of the round for Garcia was a bunker shot on 12 that he announced was, "hands down the best I have ever hit," despite failing to find the cup.
As the ball slipped by the hole, Garcia gasped and contorted in disappointment but quickly focused on his next shot to take a par.
"I'm working on trying to accept things which can happen here and can happen anywhere," said Garcia. "It's part of golf. It's not easy. It's much easier to say than to do it.
"But that's the challenge we always have, making sure that you accept the bad moments or the bad breaks with the good ones and kind of move on."
(Editing by Larry Fine)