AUGUSTA, Ga. – News and notes from Friday’s second round of the Masters, with four players – Charley Hoffman, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Rickie Fowler – tied for the lead at 4 under. Click here for a full recap.
RICKIE’S BIG MOVE
Rickie Fowler played his 100th round in a major on Friday. It was a very productive one – and it might just have set him up for his first major victory.
Fowler’s 5-under 67 was the low round of the day, just the second time he’s had the low round in a major (he shot a 3-under 67 in the third round of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion). He has at least a share of the 36-hole lead for the fifth time in his career. He’s failed to convert the previous four into victories, but he thinks he has a successful approach now.
“Make sure we go through the process and really get committed,” said Fowler, whose previous best placement after any round in his Masters career was fourth in the third round in 2013. “On the weekends, I tend to try and walk a little slower, make sure we’re taking our time.
“Because my tendency is to kind of speed up and go a little too quickly, so the more that I can slow down thoughts, my walking and make sure that I kind of think through everything and not get too quick out there – that’s one of my keys.”
Earlier this year, Fowler won The Honda Classic after heading into the weekend in solo third. Now he’s firmly one of the guys being chased. How he handles that – and how he paces himself – could very well result in a green jacket come Sunday.
PAST CHAMPS LOOMINGPhil Mickelson enters the weekend in a tie for 10th, just four shots off the pace. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
In the last 30 years, 29 Masters winners have started the third round inside the top 10 on the leaderboard. The lone exception? Charl Schwartzel, who was tied for 12th in 2011.
Based on that trend, four former Masters champs are in great shape heading into Saturday – Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and 57-year-old Fred Couples, who made his usual second-round move and is now tied for sixth at 1 under.
“I feel like my age is still OK because I can drive it far enough,” said Couples, who is inside the top 10 after 36 holes for the sixth time since turning 50. “But I’m not long like I used to be on this kind of a course. But it still plays where I can still reach a lot of these greens with shorter clubs.”
Representing the 40s is Phil Mickelson, the three-time winner who is 46. Should he win, he would supplant Jack Nicklaus as the oldest Masters champ (so would Couples, of course). Mickelson was feeling every bit of those 46 years after battling to a 1-over 73 on Friday that left him at even par.
“I’m in a good spot heading into the weekend,” Mickelson said. “I’m playing well. I’ve been putting well other than today. And I’m very optimistic I’m going to make a good run. But right now I’m so tired – I need to go rest up.”
Representing the 30s is 2013 champ Adam Scott, who is 36. Scott shot a 3-under 69 – one of just seven rounds in the 60s on Friday – and is tied for 10th with Mickelson and Spieth. Scott will play with good friend Justin Rose in the third round.
“When I won in 2013, I don’t think I missed a putt inside 6 feet for the week,” Scott said. “And I’m going to have to kind of have that weekend here if I really want to win.”
Then there’s 2015 champ Jordan Spieth, representing the 20-somethings. The 23-year-old Spieth fought back from an opening 75 to shoot 69. Considering his track record here, he figures to make an impact.
“We’re in a position now where we, I think, can go out there and win this thing and certainly make a run,” Spieth said.
FINAL TWOSOME AGAINCharley Hoffman will play in the final group on Masters Saturday for the second time in three years. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)For the second time in three years, Charley Hoffman is in the final group on Saturday at the Masters. While the circumstances are different, Hoffman’s approach will be the same.
In 2015, Hoffman was in solo second, five strokes behind Jordan Spieth entering the third round. Spieth was in control of the tournament that week; nobody was going to catch him. Hoffman, leader of the B flight after 36 holes, shot a 71 to Spieth’s 70, and eventually finished tied for ninth.
This time, Hoffman is firmly in the A flight. His 75 on Friday was 10 shots higher than his impressive 65 in the opening round, but it remained good enough to keep him in a tie for the lead – and in the final group, in which he will play with Sergio Garcia.
“I’m going to keep the same mindset as I have the last two days,” Hoffman said. “When I’m in position, I’m going to attack and try to make birdies. When I’m not, I’m going to try to just hopefully have a par putt at it.”
Hoffman does think lessons learned two years ago will come into play Saturday as he begins his weekend chase of his first major win.
“I know on the weekend, I got tentative with the putter,” Hoffman recalled. “I don’t think I’m going to get tentative with the putter on the weekend this year. I learned from that. You learn from your mistakes.”
SERGIO'S SCORING CONFUSIONSpain's Sergio Garcia is competing in his 19th Masters Tournament. (Harry How/Getty Images)
For a brief period Friday, Sergio Garcia had a triple bogey on his scorecard. But it didn’t last long.
The official Masters leaderboard had given Garcia a 7 on the par-4 10th. It came at a time when Garcia had just grabbed the lead after Charley Hoffman made the turn at 3 under.
But Garcia had only bogeyed the hole to drop back to 3 under, and a Masters official sent out a release to clear up the confusion. There was no confusion, however, on Garcia’s part.
“I knew where I stood. I knew I wasn’t 1 under. I knew I was 3 (under),” Garcia said. “It was a little bit of a funky hole for us.”
Garcia thinks he was mistaken for playing partner Shane Lowry, who lost one ball and eventually took a double bogey on the hole.
“We are all dressed (in) light color pants and (a) blue sweater,” Garcia said, “so I can see why they might have made the mistake.”
BALL SWITCH PAYING OFFRyan Moore has won five TOUR titles and hopes to break through for his first major title this weekend. (Harry How/Getty Images)
Ryan Moore made a recent switch in golf balls to improve his scoring in windy conditions. The fact that he’s in contention through the first two rounds – he’s 1 under, just three shots off the lead – confirms that he made the right move.
Moore has been playing Titleist’s Pro V1x, the ball he used last year during a successful fall that culminated in the clinching point for the U.S. at the Ryder Cup. But he’s been struggling in the wind this spring, so at the recent World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, he tested a Pro V1. The goal was to have less spin and a lower ball flight.
Back home in Las Vegas, windy conditions provided another opportunity for testing. Feeling more comfortable with the ball – and knowing that strong wind gusts were in the forecast for the Masters – Moore made the change.
After shooting a 2-over 74 in the first round, Moore bounced back with a 3-under 69, one of the lowest rounds of the day. Hitting 14 of 18 greens was a good indication of how he managed the winds.
“I’m a lot more comfortable in the wind right now with the golf ball,” Moore said. “I’m just hitting shots in crosswinds way better, and through the wind a lot better, and so I gained some confidence with that.”
DEFENDING CHAMP MISSES CUT
Danny Willett won’t be around this weekend to defending his title, having missed the cut by a stroke at 7 over. Willett shot a 78 on Friday after a disastrous start when he posted a quadruple-bogey 8 on the opening hole. “Not the best round,” Willett said.
Other notables who missed the cut:
World No. 5 Henrik Stenson, who finished at 8 over after a 75. It’s a continuation of Stenson’s struggles at Augusta National. In 12 starts, he has now missed the cut four times and has never finished inside the top 10.
Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, who also shot 78 on Friday to finish at 8 over. It’s his third missed cut in his last six stroke-play starts.
Several other past Masters champs also missed the cut, including Zach Johnson, Jose Maria Olazabal, Vijay Singh and Bernhard Langer, who last year was in third place after 54 holes.
ODDS AND ENDS
Ernie Els, possibly playing his last Masters, has made the weekend. He’s at 3 over after bogeys on his final two holes Friday. “I did all the hard work, hanging in there all day, and then bogeying 17 and 18 is a little soft,” he said. Still, he’s inside the top 20 on the leaderboard …
How important is it to be inside the top 10 of the leaderboard going into the weekend at the Masters? Just one champion since 1987 has been outside the top 10 after 36 holes – Charl Schwartzel, who was tied for 12th in 2011 …
Adam Scott made a nice move with a 3-under 69. But he thinks he was on the verge of something even better had his putter cooperated. “I’m not going to say I’m not happy with my round today,” the 2013 Masters champ said, “but it could have been one of those special ones like Charley had yesterday.”
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