Augusta (Georgia), Apr 7 (PTI) A surging Sergio Garcia moved into shared lead halfway through his second round, even as the unlikely first round leader, Charley Hoffman fell rapidly with five bogeys in six holes between sixth and 11th after the second day at the 81st Masters.
Hoffman, shot an early birdie to move to eighth-under, even as Garcia one group behind birdied first three in a row.
Then Hoffman began unraveling from the sixth and Garcia kept rolling on igniting hopes of an emotional Sunday, which coincides with the legendary Seve Ballesteros 60th birthday, which falls on Sunday.
Garcia, who shot 71 on first day, was on fire in front nine with four birdies and one bogey to move to three-under for the day.
As Hoffman dropped a fifth bogey, the Spanish heart throb momentarily held sole lead at four-under, before he himself dropped a shot on 10th.
Overnight second, Willie McGirt, a first-timer at Augusta, dropped late bogeys on 14th and 18th for a round 73 after going out first on Friday. He was the clubhouse leader at two-under 142 and overall third.
Lee Westwood, two-under in first round had a eventful two-over front nine with four bogeys and two birdies.
Apart from Garcia others making a move were Ryan Moore, three-under through 16; 22-year-old Spaniard Jon Rahm, reckoned to be a dark horse, was two-under through eight holes. Moore was now one-under as was Rahm.
Defending champion, Danny Willett, after 73 on first day was five-over through 14 on second and in danger of missing the cut. Top-50 and ties and those within 10 shots of the lead will make the weekend.
A little before midway through the second round, there were just 10 players in red-figures.
Tied for fourth at one-under were seven players, Moore (74), Rahm (73), Soren Kjeldsen (72) and Andy Sullivan (71), who had all begun second round.
Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson and Mathew Fitzpatrick, all 71 on first day, were yet to start second rounds. Rory McIlroy, even on first day, was even through an action-packed nine with three birdies and three bogeys in second round.
Meanwhile, the opening day had a bit of everything an emotion Ceremonial Start, a dramatic Dustin Johnson ‘will-he-wont-he tragedy’ and also some ghosts were exorcised and some re-visited.
In the end, there was a leader, Hoffman, who would not have given himself a four-shot lead before the first round.
The 40-year-old Hoffman, generally acknowledged as a ‘good player in windy conditions’ was just that rolling in a seven-under 65 that gave him a four-shot lead, which is the second-largest first-round lead in Masters history. Hoffman birdied five of his final seven holes.
Hoffman was walking on air, as he said,”For lack of any better words, it was a dream,” he said.
“Obviously, I was just trying to make pars, and while I was trying to make pars, I put myself in position to be able to make birdies. And I was able to convert those birdies and turn it into a fantastic round.”
The highest fist round lead is five by Craig Wood in 1941, and the only other four-shot lead was by Jack Burke Jr.
in 1955. Both went on to win the Masters in those editions.
As World No. 52 (Hoffman) took the lead, No. 53 William McGirt was second with 69 and No. 54 Lee Westwood was third at 70.
On Thursday, a devastated Johnson said:”It sucks. I want to play. I am playing probably the best golf of my career and this is one of my favorite tournaments of the year. I look forward to it every year. To have a freak accident happen yesterday afternoon, it sucks.”
In between and after that, there was a lot of individual stories as Ernie Els, who said that this might be his last Masters, exorcised the ghosts of 2016, when he six-putted the first hole. He shot 72 and was Tied-12th and declared,”Yeah, yeah I did feel like I exorcised a ghost.” Jordan Spieth, a favourite whenever he tees up here he is T2-1-T2 in his three starts at Augusta re-visited the ghosts of 2016.
He now has the dubious distinction of racking up a quadruple bogey in consecutive rounds. He had a quad on the 12th in the final round last year and that cost him his second Green Jacket. This time his “15-is-a-birdie-hole mentality” cost him heavy.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.