Who would have thought that Sergio Garcia, he with the golfing equivalent of a glass jaw when it comes to the majors, would be the veteran slugger who managed to land some of the heaviest blows on an Augusta course which was in a brutal mood?
The Spaniard’s 69 moved him to four-under and into a share of the lead at the 81st Masters with Denmark’s Thomas Pieters, the American Rickie Fowler and his fellow countryman, the overnight pacesetter Charley Hoffman.
Yet with the likes of Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson lurking – as well as the evergreen 57-year-old Fred Couples on one-under - this is a stellar leaderboard which promises a gripping weekend on which Mother Nature is forecasted to smile on the competitors.
Hoffman’s 65 opening awarded him a four-shot advantage– the largest at the Masters in 62 years – but Garcia valiantly took up the chase on another chilly and windy morning, skipping past Augusta’s many pitfalls as he went. For all of Garcia’s admirers it was thrilling to watch, particularly in this of all arenas.
Five years ago, Garcia stood outside the famous clubhouse here and announced that, no he could not ever win a greenjacket. There was none of that negativity on Friday, despite the demanding conditions. Garcia was aggressive from the off.
On the first, which was more malevolent than ever with a sucker pin bordering on sadistic, Garcia went straight for the pin and was rewarded for his courage when it came to rest within five feet.
Garcia birdied the next two as well meaning that for the first time since his debut here 18 years he had birdied the first three holes. And after bogeying the fourth, Garcia pulled that shot back with another three on the ninth.
There was a bogey on the 10th, but that could have been worse as he believed he would not find his drive and played a provisional. Indeed, there was a scoreboard error when he was credited with a triple-bogey seven and at the stage it seemed typical Sergio.
On the par-three 12th, he hit what he was to call “the best bunker shot of life” but somehow it stayed above ground. Regardless, there were rolling eyes when he bogeyed the 13th, but with two birdies in the last four holes, everybody started to believe again. Including, perhaps himself. He has finished in the top 10 of the majors on 22 occasions and it would have been Seve Ballesteros’s 60th birthday on Sunday.
That thought hangs magically in the Georgia air, especially with Jon Rahm, the brilliant Basque 22-year-old on one-under after a 70.
“It would mean a lot,” Garcia said, when asked about his mentor. “It's difficult to describe it until it happens. But at the same time, it's Friday afternoon. It's not Sunday. Hopefully, we'll be standing here and we'll be talking about that, that feeling again. That would be the best thing that could happen to me, and you know, I'm going to do my best to make sure I'm here to tell you how it feels.”
Of course it will not be easy. For Sergio it never could be anyway. But with seven members of the world’s top 15 in the top 15 this is quality cast which will take so much trumping.
For England, and their record representation of 11 players, there is Rose on one-under and ominously poised. A 72 to add to a 71 and the 36-year-old must be one of the favourites to go better than two years ago. Lee Westwood was well in touch until late bogeys caused him to fall to a 77 and a three-over total.
Jordan Spieth, Rose’s conqueror in 2015, is also in the frame following his own 69 which took him to level par. He shrugged off the quadruple bogey nine on the 15th in the first round, with three birdies in the last two holes. His three on the 18th, from 18 feet, and the ensuing fist pump said it all. From 10 behind, he is now only four behind and Spieth – who, it is hard to believe, is just 23 - fancies going second-first-second-first.
McIlroy is another shot behind after a 73, but there is a concern over his wayward driving. He will be pleased that he has survived the first two days, which witnessed gusts up to 40mph, but will pray his peerless “A” game returns for what should be a benign shootout, albeit with greens that could be faster than ever.
Europe has so many to cheer. Despite being a debutant, and the fact none of that breed has won here since Fuzzy Zoeller almost 40 years ago, Pieters will like his chances; confident young man that he is.
The 25-year-old made such a name for himself at the Ryder Cup, winning four points out five and justifying not only Darren Clarke’s wildcard selection but also the Ulsterman’s claim that he is the most outrageous raw talent he has ever seen other than Tiger Woods and McIlroy.
And here he added yet more substance to the hype with a 68, which featured a bogey on the first and 13 pars and four birdies thereafter.
Fowler produced the lowest score of the day, a remarkable 67. The 28-year-old has been in fine form of late, winning the Honda Classic in February and finishing third last Sunday at the Shell Houston Open.
Fowler holed from a greenside bunker on the par-five second for an eagle and on the 16th holed again from off at the green at the par-three 16th. Fowler looks extremely confident. Yet so many do. Augusta has thrown its meanest shots at the leaders and now they intend to deliver some payback.
Who looks like he might be suffering from allergies, has high-faded onto the 17th green for a decent-ish position. He ends his round even for the tournament. Phil's ended with a bit of a whimper, one over for the day.
Not been a happy half hour for Phil
He's in the sand on 17, that nasty little bunker to the front of the green.
Ends up with a bogey on 17, to go with bogeys on 16 and 14 and Lefty is going to be back to evens.
Spieth, Kamer, Rose and Mickelson are still out
I think I shall focus on them until the close.
fancied before the tournament, has fought his way to a 70, and that puts him well in the mix at two over.
I had a great time, I love the place. Conditions like this, I think I feel better than if it is sunny. The bad weather is a battle and playing here so many times I can save shots.
Here there are so many touchy shots.
Rickie Fowler on the 18th
He's got a chance to go into the sole lead. He's got the putter in his hand. He's got a 15 footer to lead the Masters. But it slides just by. Other things being equal, he's going to be sharing the lead tomorrow. He cards a 67, five under on the day. Hot start - he was out in 32 - but in the drink at 16 and he had to fight hard. Well played.
Phil Mick drops one at 16
He looks annoyed with himself. Tee shot was off to the side of the green, a decent recovery chip-and-run but he couldn't get it done with the putter and he slips back to one-under.
went out the back on 13, if he overcooks this he's going to be in the water. He doesn't. Gorn Justin. Gets up and down nicely.
Paul Casey with an astonishing attempt on 18
This green is absurd. He has to play it almost at right angles. 54 feet dog leg and it stops three inches short. That was a special putt. Paul will finish three over for the day, three over for the tournament.
Phil makes par on 15
By hook or by crook. Putter saves the day.
Jordan Spieth is fighting hard to stay in contention.
Oh that would have been the moment of the day!
Fred Couples hits his second onto the 18th green and it hovers, thinks about it, and then begins a loooooooooooong roll back towards the hole. For one glorious moment it looks like it might drop in, but just shades past. Still. Great shot.
is still a way back but that eagle has done him a power of good. He's four under for the day.
Rickie has left a putt
six inches short on the 16th. This peculiar green slower than many of the rest.
And if you want to talk about fighting
How about this from Thomas Pieters on the 18th?
Tee shot into the woods ont he right, has to hack out, cries of 'fore' as he wakes up a cluster of folks at the back left of the green. But he produces a masterful chip, and then shows his minerals by knocking in the putt.
He has himself a 68, and he can feel very well pleased with his day's work. He'll be back tomorrow at four-under par, very likely sharing the lead.
And Fowler is fighting like a tiger here
He's birdied 16 with a lovely tee shot.
Struggling to ensure that he is here tomorrow, stuck as he is on six-under. He's on 15... he chips.... it lands... it spins back into the hole! Magnificent! Eagle! That'll help the scorecard out.
Has lipped a putt on 14th, ends up three putting and gives back a shot.
with a thumper of a drive on 14 and that's landed nicely for the Bahamas resident.
Here's Freddie Couples
on 17, one under, playing his second. He doesn't love it. He's in the bunker to the left.
Fowler ensures a drama doesn't turn into a crisis
By making six on that par-five 15th. He slips back to -3, a mark he shares with Phil Mickelson.
The trio on -4 are Garcia and Hoffman, who are back in the hutch, and Pieters, who is playing the 18th.
Bubba Watson after probable missed cut: "Golf is tough; I don’t know if you’ve ever played it. But writing articles is easy.” (as reported by Gene Sapakoff of the Charleston Post and Courier.)
Golf writer Robert Lusetich: "Sportswriters don't get weekends off though, Bubba"
Alas, Phil has bogeyed 11
But hooray, Phil has birdied 13. Here he is lining up a short but nasty putt on the 13th. It just creeps in the side of the hole and the Californian is three-under.
Rickie has got himself a problem
He's got a pretty regulation looking wood-shot from the centre of the fairway but he's totally overdone it. Overpumped? Anyway it has sailed a mile out the back and right into the drink. That is going to put a serious dampener on his evening.
Uh-oh. Rules Alert!
The word "oscillated" is being used. Seems to be something to do with Jordan Spieth's address of the ball. The ball moved when he was about to hit it.
After an interesting discussion about whether the ball moved or not on Spieth's backswing, he takes it to the green, has 25 feet for eagle.
— Spieth Shots (@SpiethShots) April 7, 2017
And we have a rules issue for Spieth on 13. This should go well. I'm sure they will let him know in the next week or so.
— Dan Daly (@_DanDaly) April 7, 2017
Jordan Spieth wondered if his ball moved as he prepared to hit out of the 13th rough, but official, for now, rules it "just oscillated."
— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) April 7, 2017
Fowler's five under for the day
But he's not looking too thrilled here on the 14th, he's dumped his second shot a long way out the back of the green and that is going to take some fixing.
Rickaaaay there, stomping off to do a golf
— Stuart Harlow (@BigStuBaggie74) August 14, 2013
Now then! This is all pointing to a classic second half
Fowler is the latest man to reach the mark of four under. Perfect tee shot, and then the doozy is the second shot, which travels 201 yards to leave him a cheeky wee chip to the green. He puts said cheeky wee to within five feet, takes care of business with the old daisy cutter and that's a birdie for the man absolutely nobody in America thinks of as Rick-AAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY.
Thomas Pieters coming with a late run
Not only that eagle, a birdie at the 14th. That 3-3 is looking very nice indeed on his scorecard and he is now onto four-under, into a three-way tie for the lead.
Looking like six-under will be the cut.
Leaving work on Friday of Masters weekend like ... pic.twitter.com/86RUNQGwnz
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 7, 2017
PIETERS EAGLES THE 13th!!
— Planète Swing ���� (@planeteswing) April 7, 2017
Reassuring to learn that the French for "eagle" is "eagle".
is enjoying himself. He's birdied the ninth and that means he round the turn one under par for the day, two under for the tournament.
It feels like the course is playing a little easier than
earlier in the day. Wind dropping. People studying how their predecessors read the greens?
Over to Phil
Huuuuuge tee shot from Phil and he goes very hard at his second from 155. No fear. That's landed nice and solid in the green.
I think anybody who makes the cut will have a chance to win.
birdied 8 and then parred the next two. He's moved into -3.
Iffy tee shot on 11 but excellent chipping and putting keep him in the mix for a par.
Wind seems to have died down
Might that help these last few players? The men with the longest road to travel are Messrs Day, Rose and Snedeker, who are through 8.
Phil Mickelson on the ninth
second shot... it absolutely rattles through the green, this is going to leave Lefty a hell of a recovery. Produces a tremendous pitch but it is still going to leave him a nasty downhill putt for par.
The great man has tucked it away though. "Brave putt," says the commentator.
has nailed a birdie after that shocker. 18 footer allows him to card a 2 on 12.
My man Phil Mick
has missed a shortish one on 8. Perhaps seven feet. That was for birdie.
(bold denotes still on course)
Fowler -3 through 9
Mickelson -2 through 7
Pieters -1 through 10
Couples -1 through 10
Rose -1 through 7
Adam Scott has just double bogeyed
Literally as I type this, my friend and colleague Giles Mole comes over to say "hey, how is Adam Scott doing?"
I suspect that Mr Scott bears the Mole wager upon his shoulders... and indeed he does!
I point sadly to the screen.
Oh Scott! Oh Moley! Oh dear. It was a shocker as well. He missed the bogey putt from three feet. Still, he is an Aussie.
Bubba on the 18th
he is on plus seven. Might need a birdie here to ensure his attendance at the weekend...
Rory speaks to Sky
"A day where you had to battle and make pars. The shot at the last looked like it would have been a tap-in birdie. And then the wind caught me out on the putt.
"Why did I play so much here in practice? When you come to Augusta, you want to get balls in! If I can put a 31 or 32 together I can get close. I hope these will be the toughest conditions we have to play in."
Oh he has missed it! He'll card himself a five. Bad luck Rory. When his second hit the flag pole, he must have been hoping for a lot more than a five. Still. A five it is. A 73 to go with his 72 yesterday. He's one over for the tournament.
Those who took the 11/4 earlier must be... wishing they hadn't.
A poor few minutes for Europe then
Rory tries to rescue the situation with a classy short wedge, and he certainly does. He's left himself a gettable putt for par. At time of typing, his price has lurched out to 7/1 though. Don't really understand betting in play on the golf when the conditions are tough like this.
Rory! So unlucky on 18th
He has played a wonderful shot that smacks the pin and cannons off a huge distance, leaving him with a huge pitch to make par. Oh that is poor luck. He looks rueful as he strides up the last.
69 for Sergio, and a share of the lead
... has also failed to git er done with the putter on the last. That said, he makes a par.. And that means that he finishes the day four under.
Oh Lee. Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee, Lee
He has missed from four feet to get a par on 18. And that's another shot down the pan for the nearlyman English favourite.
No idea what it means
But well done, Americans.
You better protect yo girl before I collect yo girl pic.twitter.com/7HooCGZpTx
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) April 7, 2017
says: "My grandmother passed away yesterday. It was nice to go out and play well for her. We were close. She hadn't been well and we knew it was coming but it is sad."
Sergio has birdied 15 and 17
And here he is now on the 18th. Edge of the fairway. This is a lovely iron shot. Oh what a stroke. It lands and just rolls a tiny bit towards the hole. Sergio, at four under, will have a putt to go clear at the top of the leaderboard.
148 Majors between them
without a win for Sergio and Lee. Can one of them break the hoodoo this time? Lee surely won't, now: he has given up three shots on 14, 15 and 16. Lee has parred the 17th but needs at least that on 18th as well. He's currently four over for the day, which means he is two over for the Championship.
But Sergio is still in the mix.
Leader in the hutch!
Charley Hoffman has finished his round. He's three over for the day, largely thanks to a tricky period around the turn when he bogeyed five holes out of six from the sixth to the 11th. But he fought back, and he remains the clear leader on four under par.
But another veteran
Freddie Couples, has had a double bogey that has clipped his wings.
The great Phil Mick
Has made a quick start, he's bogeyed the first but hit back with birdie birdie at the second and third.
57 years old!
Freddie Couples is putting up a show. Three under for today, two under for the tournament.
Video explanation - really clear
That triple-bogey for Sergio Garcia was actually just a bogey. Here is the explanation from Andy North. pic.twitter.com/aLaQHMITOL
— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) April 7, 2017
So after the Sergio drama (and a little local difficulty here with our website breaking), let's take stock.
Hoffman is three over for the day, thru 16, and clinging on to the lead at four under.
McGirt is back in the clubhouse with a 73 under his belt. That puts him in joint second place at two under.
Also at two under are Garcia and Fowler.
Everybody has begun their round.
Word of god
There was a scoring-reporting error with Sergio Garcia. He made a bogey 5 on No. 10. The error is being corrected.
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 7, 2017
Official word from the #Masters about Sergio Garcia: Scoring reporting error. He made a bogey at 10. So there you have it.
— Augusta.com (@AUG_Masters) April 7, 2017
Sergio Garcia hit a provisional off of the 10th tee, but appears to have found and finished the hole with his original ball. https://t.co/hcLbu0jTzJ
— GOLF.com (@golf_com) April 7, 2017
I was on 10 tee. Serge tugged his first into woods then pured his provo. His first ball hit tree and kicked into f'way. Played that. Made 5.
— Alan Bastable (@alan_bastable) April 7, 2017
Sergio Garcia bogey mystery
All very strange. On the Masters official leaderboard he is down as having got a triple bogey on ten. Yet the people on the course say a single bogey. If only there was some way we could watch moving pictures of this exciting sporting event. Oh no wait Augusta have their bizarre blackout thing.
It seems like that he has been handed a penalty on the tenth but the situation is as yet unclear.
It's worthy of a terrifying gif
— Journal du Golf (@JournalduGolf) April 7, 2017
Sergio is the sole leader
Charley Hoffman's challenge is falling away fast. Bogeys on 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 have hit him hard and he moves to three under.
Sergio Garcia is pouring it on!
He's birdied nine, thanks to a lovely iron shot that took him to within perhaps seven feet. No mistake with the putter and he is onto four under. And he moves into the joint lead
Danny Willett just about still in there
five over for the day puts him six over altogether.
William McGurt back in the hutch
He has carded a one-over par 73, in part due to a dispiriting bogey at the last.
Butch talking about Ricky Fowler
"We have worked hard to peak for this week. He has a good short game which you need here. But Sergio is looking like the man at the moment!"
Butch Harmon on Sky Sports
"This is a good guy for guys just to try and avoid a big number. It is extremely windy. They course is playing very difficult. Even par to one or two under is an excellent score today."
@alantyers I'd luv Sergio 2 win a major especially on Seve's 60th but it'll all go Pete Tong mid rd Sunday it always does. Hope I'm wrong!
— John McEnerney (@MackerOnTheMed) April 7, 2017
Rory on the move!
The Northern Irish favourite has roared back (you see? that's why they pay be the small bucks) with a brace of birdies.
It looked grim for Rory on five when he drove right but he recovered with a magnificent iron shot, 212 yards to leave it 12 feet from the pin.
And he consolidated that on the next hole when he chipped from the edge of the green with the flag in. Had a stroke of luck - the ball dropped in!
Things are starting to happen for Rory. You can back him at a not very generous 11/4.
Nice to see Rory McIlroy making birdies at 5 and 6, he is one under for the tournament but more important 4 under on his last 13 holes.
— Sal Johnson (@GOLFstatsSal) April 7, 2017
Charley Hoffman stops the rot
with a par on nine
But that's not important right now!
What is important is this day two leaderboard, where Ryan Moore has dismounted from his horse, and chipped from about 49 yards to within a few feet of the pin. Makes sure with the putter, claims a birdie....
and thus becomes the only man today on three under for the day. Secures a par at the 14th and this is shaping into a very interesting round indeed.
What a man. What a shot
— Carolyn Sames (@SamesCarolyn) April 4, 2017
what a movie. In a ridiculously strong field, I think this is my favourite bit
Not a lot of this going on right now
Dustin Hoffman rounds a snoozing Arsenal defence to give Man City an early lead. pic.twitter.com/At5ScNA5m3
— Danny Baker (@prodnose) April 2, 2017
Yet another bogey for Hoffman. Our man Charlie has three bogeys in a row and slips back to five under.
A FOURTH bogey on the day for Lee Westwood. He's one over for the tournament now. Playing with Sergio Garcia, and it looks like the Spaniard is using up all the mojo in that pair.
Birdie at 10 was soon cancelled out by bogey at 11. He's five over for today and that's six over in total. In very real danger of missing the cut. The last time a defending champion did that was 2004, when Mike Weir didnae get through to the weekend.
is it all sliding backwards? Bogey on six and seven.... He drove into the trees on seven.
Back to -6.
But he's not alone in finding it tough
By my reckoning, only five players are under par for the day. Messrs Garcia, Moore, Rahm, Grillo and Luck the amateur.
And of those, only Sergio is seriously in the mix.
How's dear old Lee Westwood doing?
Mixed bag, I am afraid to say. Bogey on the first, birdie on the second, but then two subsequent bogeys. He's on the sixth now.
And I am afraid he's bogeyed that as well. Oh, Lee. Even par for the tournament. Two over for the day.
Gives a shot back at the sixth. He hit his t-shot short and right on the par three. Chipped on tolerably well to 17 feet but needed a special putt. Couldn't make it on the left-to-right puzzler and was awry by a coupla feet. Bogey. Back to seven under par.
How is the Northern Irish genius? Well, he has unsheathed the driver and smashed the ball 393 yards from the tee on the second. He then put his eagle putt real close, and made no mistake with a simple birdie. That erased the bogey on the first, sending him to level par.
But - BUT! Our hero then promptly bogies the third, he needed three putts from 11 feet. Oh no Rory.
Few IT problems here readers
So there will be a short hiatus. Meanwhile Sergio has had a hiccup: bogey on fourth after leaving his drive just short of the green on the par three. Chipped on but two-putted so he has given a shot back and is now back to three under.
With a hot start to his round, he's gone birdie, birdie, birdie. At the third, a smashing tee shot to 266 yards, leaving him about 84 yards. Put that to 22 feet, got his putter out and took care of business with an uphill putt to finish. Sergio has gone to four under, and clear second place.
Poor old Danny W
looks like he has surely shot his bolt. But what other heroes might take up the charge?
Tyers here, excited to bring you news and updates of the second round of the Masters.
More Willett woe
The defending champion has bogeyed the fourth to move six over, and he is more or less out of the running now, I'd imagine. It's been a day to forget, so far, for him.
Meanwhile, Garcia racks up a third birdie in a row, and he is now level on four under with McGirt.
And with that, it's time for me to hand over into the much more capable hands of Alan Tyers, who will be with you right through to the end of today's play.
Not so good from Rory
With Dustin Johnson out of the running, there is a huge opportunity for Rory McIlroy to complete the career slam at this year's Masters. Having finished yesterday level par, he begins his second round terribly, veering off into the trees. He recovers to the point of needing a 12 foot putt to par, but he can't make it and a bogey takes him to one over.
Hoffman extends his lead
McGrit recovers well after sending his tee shot into the bunker on hole 12, and manages to make par, but meanwhile, Hoffman is flourishing on the second hole, where he has birdied to pull four ahead once again at a chilly Augusta.
The leader goes off
Charley Hoffman has teed off as he begins his quest to keep hold of what is a sizeable lead. He nearly birdies after sending a 51 foot putt to within seven of the hole, before sinking his next shot to make par.
Steady as she goes
Meanwhile, McGirt has been chugging along nicely. Four pars in a row keep him four under and three off Hoffman's lead. Hoffman is due to tee-off soon - at 3.01pm to be precise.
Willett recovers to par hole 2, but he'll need to do a hell of a lot better if he is to claw his way back into the running.
1991 winner Ian Woosnam, 1994 and 1999 champion Jose-Maria Olazabal and two-time runner-up Ernie Els are all out there now.