Masters 2017: Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, Thomas Pieters & Charley Hoffman share Augusta lead

Sergio Garcia

Masters second-round leaderboard
-4 Hoffman (US), Garcia (Spa), Fowler (US), Pieters (Bel); -2 McGirt (US); -1 Moore (US), Rahm (Spa), Couples (US), Rose (Eng); Level Scott (Aus), Spieth (US), Mickelson (US),
Selected others: +1 McIlroy (NI); +2 Matsuyama (Jpn), Kaymer (Ger); +3 Els (SA), Westwood (Eng); +5 Sullivan (Eng), Fitzpatrick (Eng); +6 Day (Aus); +7 Willett (Eng), Wood (Eng), Lowry (Ire); +8 Knox (Sco)

Charley Hoffman’s overnight advantage was wiped out as Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Thomas Pieters pegged him back for a four-way tie at the halfway stage of the Masters at Augusta.

American Hoffman, 40, carded a three-over 75 to drop to four under overall, before Spain’s Garcia, 37, shot a 69.

Belgium’s Pieters hit a 68, while American Fowler shot a day’s best 67.

Rory McIlroy (73) is one over as he seeks a career Grand Slam but defending champion Danny Willett missed the cut.

Englishman Willett ended one over the cut line on seven over after shooting 78 in blustery winds that made conditions tricky at the Georgia course, although most players did find scoring easier than on the opening day.

Only two players – Hoffman and compatriot William McGirt – shot under 70 on Thursday, but seven men managed the same feat in the second round – including Garcia, Fowler and Pieters.

“I felt like I played great, I felt like I hit the ball better than the first day,” said Garcia, the world number 11.

“The course is still very difficult, and I made a couple of stupid mistakes but I can be happy because of the way the course is playing,” he added.

Garcia in contention after score mix-up

Garcia has been one of the game’s leading players since bursting onto the European Tour scene as a teenager, consistently hovering in and around the world’s top 10 and challenging for leading honours.

But his failure to win one of the four majors, after several near misses in 22 top-10 finishes, is a blemish on an otherwise stellar career.

Two impressive rounds at a blustery Augusta have left him well-placed to shake off the unwanted tag of being one of golf’s most famous ‘nearly men’.

Garcia made a flying start to his second round with birdies on the first three holes before dropping his first shot of the tournament on the fourth.

Then came total confusion after a mistake on the Masters scoring system.

Garcia scored a bogey on the par-four 10th, but it was changed on the scoring system to a triple-bogey seven – dropping him down the leaderboard.

The mistake was eventually rectified by tournament officials about an hour later, moving him back into tied second and two behind Hoffman.

Two more birdies at the 15th and 17th wiped out Hoffman’s lead, although the Ryder Cup stalwart missed a six-foot birdie putt on the last to take the outright clubhouse lead.

“I’ve shown myself many times that I can contend and I truly feel I can not only win one major, but more than one,” said Garcia.

On the scorecard mix-up, he added: “I saw it on the leaderboard on the 13th but the main thing was I knew where I stood.”

Hoffman holds on under pressure

Hoffman, 40, caused a shock when he shot a stunning seven-under 65 to lead on Thursday but, unsurprisingly, the Californian was unable to replicate this remarkable feat.

His round was ruined by five bogeys in six holes around the turn, although he recovered to birdie the 13th and stay in the hunt.

“Any time this place firms up, it plays its hardest just because it’s hard to control your golf ball,” said Hoffman, who has only previously claimed one top-25 finish at a major.

Belgium’s Pieters – considered one of the rising stars on the European Tour – moved into contention with another impressive showing on his Augusta debut.

The 25-year-old began the day level and, after bogeying the first, stormed back with three birdies and an eagle on the 15th.

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Fowler, two groups behind Pieters, set the tone by holing his bunker shot for an eagle on the par-five second and adding a birdie on the next. He rolled in three more birdies to record the day’s lowest round.

Two-time major winner Jordan Spieth birdied three of his last six holes to finish level par alongside two other former Masters champions, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson.

In three appearances at the Masters, American Spieth has finished second, first, tied for second.

Battling McIlroy still in contention

World number two McIlroy, 27, is aiming to become only the sixth man to win all four majors – at his third time of trying at Augusta.

McIlroy, who has three consecutive top-10 finishes in Georgia, is seeking a first Masters title following victories at the US Open and the Open Championship and two US PGA Championship titles.

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He shot a scrappy level-par 72 on Thursday and followed up with a similarly-scruffy round on Friday.

He struggled to find rhythm in a card littered with five bogeys, salvaging four birdies to keep him within touching distance.

However, McIlroy felt aggrieved to walk off the 18th with a bogey after his approach shot hit the flagstick and bounced off the green.

“The shot at the last looked like a tap-in birdie and I made five. I got two bad breaks with hitting the pin and the wind then caught me out on the putt as well,” he said.

“It was another day where you had to battle, make a lot of pars and pick off the odd birdie here and there.

“I feel I can put a 31 or 32 together a couple of times over the weekend and get closer to the leaders.

“Hopefully these are the toughest conditions we have played in and hopefully I can go a lot lower over the weekend.”

Willett misses the cut

Willett was visibly frustrated when carding an eight on the opening hole

England’s Danny Willett became the first Briton to win the Masters in 20 years when he claimed his first major 12 months ago – this time there was no cause to celebrate ending another barren run.

The Yorkshireman, 29, is the first defending champion to miss the cut since Canada’s Mike Weir in 2004.

Willett began the day at one over par, but his second round got off to a shocking start when he recorded a quadruple-bogey eight on the first.

Two more bogeys arrived at the fourth and 11th holes, in addition to a solitary birdie at the 10th, leaving him perilously close to missing the projected cut of six over.

And a bogey on the 18th pushed him to seven over par.

“We’ve had two fabulous years and then you have a little bit of a downturn and it feels like the world is coming to an end,” Willett said.

“Playing Augusta at the weekend would be nice with the good weather coming in, but we had that in our own hands and unfortunately we let that slip.”

Other big names who missed the cut include reigning Open champion Henrik Stenson, plus former Masters winners Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson.

Seven other Britons – Chris Wood, Tommy Fleetwood, Russell Knox, Ian Woosnam, Tyrrell Hatton, Sandy Lyle and amateur Scott Gregory, plus Ireland’s Shane Lowry – also failed to make the weekend.

Couples rolls back the years

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Twelve months after Bernhard Langer rolled back the years at Augusta, another veteran former champion is dreaming of a fairytale finish.

Fred Couples, who won the Masters in 1992, is three shots behind the leading group after shooting a two-under-par 70.

The 57-year-old former world number one is now ranked 1,893, but showed that experience counts for everything at Augusta.

The American carded six birdies during a round punctured by a double bogey and two bogeys, and almost holed his approach on the 18th but walked off with a tap-in birdie.

“I feel like I can play the course well but in conditions like this I feel I have a better chance than if it was sunny and less windy,” he said.

“It would be hard for me to shoot a 68 like some of the better players. In bad weather I feel I could battle.

“The only real disappointment was my second on 17 which led to a bad bogey.”

Another former winner, 58-year-old Larry Mize, became the oldest player to make the cut at six over par on the 30th anniversary of his 1987 victory.

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Masters 2017: Sergio Garcia & Charley Hoffman share Augusta lead

Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia moved into an early share of the clubhouse lead as Charley Hoffman saw his overnight advantage wiped out on day two at the Masters.

Spain’s Garcia, 37, shot a three-under-par 69 to move four under overall as he continues his quest for a first major.

American Hoffman, 40, carded a three-over 75 after a remarkable opening-day 65 at Augusta National.

Compatriot William McGirt, who started four shots adrift of Hoffman, is two shots behind after a 73.

“I felt like I played great, I felt like I hit the ball better than the first day,” said Garcia, the world number 11.

Blustery winds still made conditions tricky at the Georgia course, although players did find scoring easier than the opening day.

Only two players – Hoffman and McGirt – shot under 70 on Thursday, but that the tally was eclipsed midway through Friday as Garcia, American Ryan Moore and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo all shot 70 or under.

“The course is still very difficult, and I made a couple of stupid mistakes but I can be happy because of the way the course is playing,” Garcia added.

More to follow.

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Masters 2017: Charley Hoffman leads, Lee Westwood & Rory McIlroy in contention

Masters 2017: Charley Hoffman

Masters first-round leaderboard
-7 Hoffman (US); -3 McGirt (US); -2 Westwood (Eng) -1 Henley (US), Chappell (US), Sullivan (Eng), Fitzpatrick (Eng), Mickelson (US), Rose (Eng), Dufner (US) Garcia (Spa)
Selected others: Level Casey (Eng), Els (SA), Lowry (Ire), McIlroy (NI); +1 Fowler (US), Couples (US), Willett (Eng); +2 Day (Aus), B Watson (US); +3 Spieth (US), Langer (Ger); +4 Knox (Sco), Matsuyama (Jpn), Woosnam (Wal), Fisher (Eng), Stenson (Swe); +5 Lyle (Sco)

Unheralded American Charley Hoffman defied tricky blustery conditions to take a four-shot lead after day one of the 2017 Masters at Augusta National.

Hoffman, 40, sunk nine birdies in a seven-under-par 65 to lead ahead of compatriot William McGirt.

Lee Westwood is third on two under, one ahead of fellow Englishmen Justin Rose, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy rallied with three late birdies in a 72, while 2015 champion Jordan Spieth carded 75.

England’s reigning champion Danny Willett started his defence with a double bogey and a bogey before fighting back to finish one-over par.

World number one Dustin Johnson pulled out on the first tee after injuring his back when slipping on the stairs at his rental house on Wednesday.

Little-known Americans lead the way

Scoring was expected to be tough at Augusta with high winds forecast to become even stronger as the opening day progressed.

And that proved to be the case as it became a distinct possibility that no player would shoot under 70 in the opening round for the first time in 60 years.

But the tricky conditions proved little obstacle for McGirt and, particularly, Hoffman, who were the only players to score in the 60s.

Hoffman has only previously claimed one top-25 finish at a major, tying for ninth at the 2015 Masters, but put together a remarkable round.

The world number 52 closed the front nine with two birdies to move two under, then blitzed the back nine with a five-under 31 which included four straight birdies.

The Californian almost made it five on the last, only to see a 16-foot putt fall agonisingly short.

Nevertheless, his four-shot lead is the biggest first-round advantage at Augusta since 1941.

“The putts started going in the hole – as simple as that sounds,” he said.

“I kept hitting my spots and in the wind I ended up getting 20 footers and I got some of them down the stretch.”

William McGirt

McGirt, making his Masters debut, became the first player to break 70 with four birdies and a bogey in a three-under 69.

The 37-year-old from South Carolina does not have much previous pedigree in the majors, having missed the cut at the US Open and The Open in 2016 before earning a 10th place finish at last year’s PGA Championship.

“It was pretty darn special. Any time to break 70 here is awesome,” said McGirt, who is ranked a place below Hoffman at 53rd in the world.

“The few times I came down here to play in practice the wind direction was the same so this was not new to me today.

“I’m lucky enough to know a few members here and I’ve spoken to a few caddies and they’ve been happy to share their knowledge with me.”

Westwood leads the British charge

Defending champion Willett is one of a record 11 English players in the 93-strong field at Augusta, but made a nightmare start to his defence with a double bogey and a bogey in the opening two holes.

Birdies on three and 10, with six successive pars sandwiched in-between, steadied the Yorkshireman’s scorecard and a superb eagle on the par-five 13th moved him level par for the first time.

However, a bogey on the 18th pushed him back over par.

“Battling back from three over even if it was flat and calm round this place would have been great,” said the world number 17, who has not won a tournament since claiming the Green Jacket.

“We gathered ourselves after probably the worst start we could have wished for. A score of 73 seemed like a good score.”

On returning to the scene of his greatest triumph for the first time, he added: “The memories came flooding back. To be anywhere defending a title is incredible but to be here at Augusta National is amazing – at least once in your life, but it would be nice to do it a couple of times.”

Willett became the first Englishman to win the Masters in 20 years when he overhauled Spieth 12 months ago, and a number of his compatriots are in close contention as they aim to repeat his feat.

Fitzpatrick, the 22-year-old from Sheffield, led for a short period at three under before a double bogey on the 18th dropped him back into the pack also containing Sullivan and Rose.

Westwood, 43, surged into third place with five straight birdies on the back nine as he continued his search for a first major title.

McIlroy lurking after late rally

World number two McIlroy, 27, is aiming to become only the sixth man to win all four majors – at his third time of trying at Augusta.

McIlroy is seeking a first Masters title following victories at the US Open, the Open Championship and the US PGA Championship.

And, after three consecutive top-10 finishes in Georgia, he has made no secret that finally winning the Green Jacket is his main priority.

The Northern Irishman made a scruffy start to his opening round, however, dropping three shots without making a birdie on the front nine.

Gutsy par putts on 10, 11 and 12 prevented him dropping further adrift, setting the platform to haul himself back to level par with three birdies in the final six holes.

“After nine holes if someone had said I would shoot even par I would have ripped their hand off,” he said.

Rory McIlroy

Spieth hit by quadruple bogey nine

Two-time major winner Jordan Spieth is hoping to banish memories of last year’s spectacular final-day collapse by winning his second Masters.

The American, 23, led by five shots as he approached the 10th in 2016, only to dramatically drop six shots in three holes – including a quadruple bogey seven at the 12th – and allow England’s Willett to take advantage.

He was putting together an encouraging first round on Thursday until another quadruple bogey wrecked his card, although at three over par he is still in contention.

Spieth was among the leaders heading into Amen Corner, coming through the tough trio of 11, 12 and 13 unscathed.

He found the green on the iconic par-three 12th to huge cheers, then birdied the par-five 13th to move into a 13-man share of the lead at one under.

“I was relieved to see it down and on the green,” he said of his tee shot on 12. “And I guess everybody else felt maybe more than I did on it.”

But his opening-day challenge faded quickly as a bogey on the 14th was followed by a nine on the par-five 15th.

Spieth’s approach fizzed back off the green into the water and after taking a penalty drop, he knocked his fifth shot over the back, then hit a poor chip before needing three putts from 30 feet.

“It was nice to make a three at 12 and then four at the next,” he added. “I really thought we had it going there and just made a club choice mistake on 15 but we’re still in the tournament.”

Pieters fades after early promise

Belgium’s Thomas Pieters – considered one of the rising stars on the European Tour – was one of the few players who managed to tame Augusta early on Thursday.

He moved into an early four-shot lead on his Masters debut, rattling in five birdies in his opening 10 holes.

Then, the 22-year-old came unstuck at Amen Corner.

He signed for his first bogey at Augusta by three-putting on the 11th, but worse was soon to follow at the 12th.

Pieters dunked his tee-shot into Rae’s Creek – the water hazard guarding the narrow green – before knocking on and needing two putts for a double bogey.

And another double bogey at the last dropped him back to level par alongside McIlroy, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, England’s Paul Casey and four-time major winner Ernie Els.

Analysis

Iain Carter, BBC golf correspondent at Augusta:

“This was a day not to play yourself out of the Masters.

“Today, you couldn’t win the tournament but you could lose it.

“All of the players that have battled to around par have kept themselves in it.”

Masters 2017 on the BBC
Venue: Augusta National Dates: 6-9 April
Coverage: Watch highlights of the first two days before live and uninterrupted coverage of the weekend’s action on BBC Two and up to four live streams available online.
Listen on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Radio 5 live sports extra. Read live text commentary, analysis and social media on the BBC Sport website and the sport app.
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Masters 2017: Dustin Johnson pulls out in Augusta due to back injury

Breaking news

World number one Dustin Johnson is out of the Masters at Augusta National after sustaining a back injury in a fall at his rental home on Wednesday.

The American, 32, looked set to take part after warming up on the range but he then withdrew on the first tee.

The US Open champion fell on the stairs and hurt his lower back on Wednesday.

His caddie was placing the ball on the tee for Johnson on the range, while coach Butch Harmon said pain hindered Johnson’s rest overnight.

More to follow.

Analysis

BBC Radio 5 live correspondent Iain Carter

Johnson took until the very last second to make what must have been an agonising decision to pull out. He was standing on the first tee before making the toughest call of his career. It is a severe blow for the player who has dominated golf this season.

He arrived here off the back of three big victories and was a justifiable favourite. All that has been lost through his freak fall at his rental home and the damage done to his back.

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Dustin Johnson injured in fall at home on eve of Masters

Dustin Johnson

Masters 2017 on the BBC
Venue: Augusta National Dates: 6-9 April
Coverage: Watch highlights of the first two days before live and uninterrupted coverage of the weekend’s action on BBC Two and up to four live streams available online.
Listen on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Radio 5 live sports extra. Read live text commentary, analysis and social media on the BBC Sport website and the sport app.
Full details

Pre-tournament favourite Dustin Johnson has suffered a lower-back injury following a fall at his rental home ahead of Thursday’s opening round of the Masters in Augusta.

His agent David Winkle says he still hopes to play tomorrow.

World number one Johnson fell on the stairs on Wednesday and “landed hard on his lower back”.

He is said to be uncomfortable but is resting and doctors have advised him to remain stable.

Johnson is due to tee off in the last group at 19:03 BST on Thursday evening.

“Dustin took a serious fall on a staircase in his Augusta rental home,” Winkle said in a statement.

“He landed very hard on his lower back and is now resting, although quite uncomfortably.

“He has been advised to remain immobile and begin a regimen of anti-inflammatory medication and icing, with the hope of being able to play tomorrow.”

The American, 32, won his third successive tournament when he beat Spain’s Jon Rahm in the World Match Play final in late March.

He has won seven of the 17 tournaments he has played since claiming his first major at the US Open at Oakmont in June, racking up another seven top-10 finishes in the process.

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Masters Par 3 event abandoned for first time in history due to bad weather

Niall Horan (left) with Rory McIlroy

Masters 2017 on the BBC
Venue: Augusta NationalDates:6-9 April
Coverage: Watch highlights of the first two days before live and uninterrupted coverage of the weekend’s action on BBC Two and up to four live streams available online.
Listen on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Radio 5 live sports extra. Read live text commentary, analysis and social media on the BBC Sport website and the sport app.
Full details

The traditional Par 3 curtain-raiser to the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, has been cancelled because of severe weather warnings.

A tornado threat in the area forced officials to close the course for the rest of the day on Wednesday.

The event, held each year on the eve of the opening round, often sees family members or celebrities serving as caddies to the professionals.

Bad weather has affected practice sessions at the course all week.

It is the first time in the history of the Masters that the Par 3 event has been cancelled.

“Augusta is now in a ‘Particularly Dangerous Situation’ tornado watch, which means there is a high probability of tornadoes in the area,” said BBC meteorologist Simon King.

Earlier on Wednesday officials closed the course for two and a half hours because of thunderstorms and weather warnings, and when players returned to the course for the Par 3 tournament, just 55 minutes of play was possible before being abandoned.

The weather is expected to affect the opening round of the 81st Masters on Thursday, with 40mph winds forecast during play.

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