Sergio Garcia grabs share of Masters lead

The 37-year-old Spaniard shot a three-under par 69 to stand on four-under par 140 for 36 holes at the Augusta Masters.

Sergio Garcia, of Spain, reacts to his birdie on the 17th hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament on Friday.   -  AP

Spain's Sergio Garcia, seeking his first major title after 73 failures, charged into a share of the second-round Masters lead in windy conditions on Friday at Augusta National. The 37-year-old Spaniard shot a three-under par 69 to stand on four-under par 140 for 36 holes at the famed 7,435-yard course, level with American Charley Hoffman atop the leaderboard with most of the field still on the course.

"These first two rounds are probably the best I've ever played at Augusta and I've been coming here for a while now," Garcia said. "I feel like I played great. I made a lot of great putts."

Hoffman opened with a 65 for a four-stroke edge - the largest 18-hole Masters lead since 1955 - but made a stinging run of five bogeys in six holes on his way to a 75 Friday that erased his advantage. "I started well, hit some great shots, nothing went in," Hoffman said. "I made a few errors out there. All in all it's not that bad. I like where I'm at, which is all you can ask for."

Cool and blustery conditions at the famed 7,435-yard layout made the course play like a brutal combination of tricky U.S. Open greens with chillier British Open weather. "You got U.S. Open, Open Championship, everything," said South Africa's Ernie Els, twice a winner in each of those majors. "You play in wind, play tough pin placements, really fast greens. Put it all together, you have an unbelievable place."

American William McGirt, who started in the opening group, shot 73 Friday to stand third on 142. "The hardest thing was it seemed like the gusts bounced all over the place," McGirt said. "There were a couple times when it literally flipped 180 degrees, which makes club selection hard and really makes putting hard out here."

Eighth-ranked U.S. star Rickie Fowler was on two-under with 11 holes remaining thanks in part to birdies on the par-5 second and par-4 third. A pack on one-under included Spain's Jon Rahm and Belgium's Thomas Pieters, both Masters newcomers trying to become the first green jacket winner in his debut since 1979.

Australia's Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, fired four birdies on a bogey-free front nine to reach one-under, while American Ryan Moore fired a 69 to reach the clubhouse on 143. Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, a U.S. left-hander who would become the oldest winner in Masters history two months before his 47th birthday by taking his fourth green jacket, was on one-under with 13 holes remaining.

And American Fred Couples, the 1992 winner turning back the clock at age 57 with three birdies in the first five holes, was on one-under with 10 to play. Reigning Olympic champion Justin Rose was at one-under with 13 holes remaining.

McIlroy lurking

Lurking at level par was World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, trying to complete a career grand slam by winning the Masters. Hoffman birdied the par-5 second but saw his huge edge collapse when he had five bogeys in a six-hole stretch starting at the par-3 sixth. He birdied the par-5 13th and parred his way in.

Hoffman, who booked his fourth Masters start by winning last year's PGA Texas Open, shared ninth at Augusta National in 2015 for his best showing in 22 major starts. Garcia opened with three consecutive birdies, a rare one at the first from 10 feet followed by a two-putt effort at the second and a long putt at three before he missed the green at the par-4 fourth and made bogey.

The Spaniard closed the front nine with a birdie, stumbled with bogeys at 10 and 13 but answered with birdies at the par-5 15th and par-4 17th. "It's very challenging," Garcia said. "I'm thrilled with the way I played the first two days."

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